The Shaun & The Dread
As Shaun Marsh marched toward a test hundred in his first ever innings for Australia, it didn’t take a novel imagination to picture Ricky Ponting running out of the delivery suite at regular intervals to keep a worrying eye on the debutant’s progress on the tv. Our former leader’s wife in the throes of labour in the adjacent room, but his career in the baggy green in even more painfully precarious position. With reports from the House of Ponting telling us they’ve welcomed baby number 2, it appears Punter’s spawn kept to the plan by coinciding it’s arrival with the second test and by doing so provided a dramatic representation of the circle of life. As the miracle of birth was theatrically juxtaposed with the tragic passing of the career of an Australian sporting icon. Hakuna Matata.
Now it’s not as clear cut as Ricky out, Marshy in. But the selector certainly have a Doosra on their hands. Tough calls will have to be made regarding batsmen selection, possibly as soon as the last test in Colombo which begins next Friday. With reports so far suggesting Ponting will be back on the subcontinent and available for selection, he is seemingly swapping his daughter’s dirty nappies for some of his own. But the selectors may just give him the week off, and it may even be the first of many. For all dimlomatic purposes, Ponting will surely be all smiles and backpats on his return to the team, but one would think he is privately reeling that time may now be called on his decorated career. With the blood still dripping from the knife thrust in Simon Katich’s back (one of Australia’s most consistent performers throughout the last calendar year; 796 runs @ 46.82) there is not a specialist batsmen with the exception of Clarke assured of their place in the side. Naturally this means Usman Khawaja spot is far from secured. But with the involvement of quite a few younger players for this tour, it is clear Australian cricket is looking ahead to the 2013 Ashes. Let’s not kid ourselves, it is the pinnacle of test cricket for both countries involved and given England’s recent success, it has become even more a focal point for the rebuilding of Australian cricket.
It is Marsh though, who has given his case for selection a huge boost with a stunning debut knock. On a deck that made the formidable Sri Lankan batting line up crumble like an apple based dessert, Marsh dealt with the overnight nerves and advancing from 87 to well past three figures. In the process signaling he is ready to deal with the pressure cooker test cricket environment. At least Ricky’s old mate Mike Hussey was flying the flag for the older guard at the opposite end to Marsh, and as he beat the debutant to three figures he showed there is still plenty of fight in the old dogs. However, Ponting’s situation is somewhat different to Hussey’s, with his captaincy buried deep in the laundry basket and his place in the side a long way from cemented. Marsh is no young colt himself. At 28, many would argue his chance has been a long time coming, especially after putting up solid numbers for Australia’s one day side (Inns 35/ Avg 36.58 @ 76.36) . Despite good form in the shorter version of the game, there was every chance that Marsh would suffer the same fate as Stuart Law, Jammie Siddons and Martin Love. All very good craftsmen who never got their shot in the majors. But with Ponting’s desire to keep the human race ticking over and the timing of the birth conflicting with the test cricket calendar, Shaun Marsh was gifted his opportunity. It now appears it will pan out more like a Darren Lehmann type scenario, with a test career beginning seemingly late, but still with every chance of prolonged success. Marsh’s innings in Pallekele could well be a telling knock in the Australian cricket scheme of things. You only need to ask Marcus North and Greg Blewett how much slack a hundred on debut can cut you from the selection panel.
No one is condoning putting your sport before your family. But you’d have thought with some 9 month family planning by Rick & Rhianna, this whole situation could have been avoided. As a captain he was always known for having a plan to get each batsman out, but it appears that this time round his planning was skewed. In these times of cut throat section policies, Ricky Ponting certainly risked his place in the Australian middle order by giving Shaun Marsh his chance on cricket’s finest stage. And take it he did. An impressive innings that at times looked on track to be the highest ever innings on debut by an Australian. I’m sure before the match that scenario was never entertained as more than a fleeting thought by our beloved ex-skipper, but the arrival of Marsh at 100 and each passing run were driven like nails into Ponting’s test match coffin.
There is no doubt that Ricky Ponting love for his child will be much like his love for representing his country, and in that respect that child will grow up being adored by its father. But if this is the end of the road for Ponting’s test career, will there not be a tinge of resentment every time he looks at that baby & remembers the magic of its birth? Of course by the ‘magic ‘ I refer to a flawless innings being played on the sub-continent some 9000 kilometers away.