Ricky Ponting’s hard hands against spin bowling and the psychological edge he had yanked from the batsman very early in the 2001 series helped former India spinner Harbhajan Singh plot out the ex-Australian skipper frequently.
Harbhajan, who played 103 Test matches and took 417 wickets in his career, dismissed Test cricket’s second highest run-getter 10 times – five times each in the 2001 home series and the 2007-08 series Down Under.
Harbhajan, however, has enormous respect for Pointing not just as a batsman but as a guide and coach to youngsters when the two shared the same dressing room at Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.
“There is no doubt that he (Ponting) is one of the best batsman to have played the game. He will always be remembered as one of the greatest to have played the game,” Harbhajan told IANS on Friday. “I had my time against him when I thought I was equal to him at my best and I began feeling that way when I got him out a couple of times.”
Harbhajan said that he found some technical frailty in Ponting, who was known to smash fast bowlers all round the park.
“I could see that while coming forward in his defence, he jabs (at the ball) and doesn’t play with soft hands. I felt that in his defence, he comes with hard hands. The ball that bounces or rises would hit the top of his bat and that always gave me a chance for bat-pad or get him out caught at short-leg or backward short-leg. And once I sensed that he wasn’t really comfortable in defending the ball, I could play on the weakness,” said the 40-year-old.
Harbhajan said that solid defence is needed to become a complete and proper batsman. ‘Bhajji’ got the Australian in various ways. Apart from getting him out with close-in fielders, he also got him out leg-before and caught at slips. Ponting could score just over 200 Test runs against the India off-spinner.
“You may have every shot, but if you have solid defence you become a very proper, complete batsman. When he used to play fast bowling, it never seemed like he had hard hands but against a spinner you have to play with slightly more soft hands. I felt he would rush, and the ball would hit his gloves. I got him out four-five times (five times) in that series against us in 2001,” Harbhajan explained.
“After that, every time I played against him, it was more of a mental game. When you get out to a bowler a few times then it is always at the back of your mind. Even if you are batting at 130, you always think, oh this bowler has come, hope he doesn’t get me out. That was probably something he had on his mind. Maybe that was an advantage for me. I had in my mind that I can get him out. I felt like conditions don’t matter, surface doesn’t matter. I can get him out, so it worked for me.”
Harbhajan, however, says his success doesn’t lessen the fact that Ponting was not just a batting great but also a great mentor. The two were together at MI. Ponting coached the franchise between 2014 to 2016.
“He was the best player I have played against. I have got great regards for him as a player. When we played against each other, we always had that tussle but when we were together with MI, he was phenomenal in guiding us to our maiden IPL title.”
The two never discussed the rivalry or dismissals in the MI camp.
“We never sat and discussed the rivalry or dismissals as such. We never spoke to each other when we played against each other. But when we were at the Mumbai Indians, we never spoke about how I dismissed him or how he couldn’t play me. He was there to help me.”
The right-arm off-break bowler said that the good thing about Ponting was that he knew what to do to get the best out of experienced players.
“He was phenomenal with MI as coach. We really enjoyed playing under him as coach. He was someone who could guide a lot of players. Was very good with youngsters, and would give a lot of space to us as seniors. He would say you know what you have to do. However, at the same time, he would give us responsibility to do the needful and set example for teammates to follow.”
Eighth season of Pro Kabaddi League to begin from December 22 in Bengaluru
The organisers of the Pro Kabaddi League announced on Wednesday that the eighth edition of the league will be held here from December 22. It also said that the entire season will be conducted without the presence of spectators for the matches.
Mashal Sports, the organisers of the league, have scheduled triple headers on the first four days. The season will kick-start with U Mumba facing Bengaluru Bulls. The second match will be the league’s ‘Southern Derby’ as Telugu Titans lock horns with Tamil Thalaivas while UP Yoddha will be squaring off against the defending champions Bengal Warriors in the last match of the opening day.
The triple-headers will be only-Saturday affairs throughout the whole duration of the league, starting at 7:30pm, 8:30pm and 9:30pm respectively. The schedule of the first half of season 8 has come while the organisers say that the second half of the league’s schedule will come in mid-January next year.
Keeping the health and safety of players in mind amid COVID times, the organisers have converted the entire venue at Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel & Convention Centre into an integrated and secure bio-bubble.
All 12 teams will be staying and playing at the same venue in order to follow and adhering to the safety protocols set by the authorities.
Laxman finally agrees to head NCA: Sources
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has managed to convince former cricketer VVS Laxman to head the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru, sources said.
After Rahul Dravid took over the post of Indian team’s head coach, there were reports that Laxman might be appointed as a new head of NCA.
However, later it was said that the former batter “is uninterested”. But now he is ready to take the charge after the BCCI officials held a meeting with him in Dubai.
“There were some issues and it has been sorted out. The board wanted him to take the reponsibility and he is the right man to come in place of Dravid,” sources said.
It is also learnt that Laxman has also agreed to leave the lucrative commentary career for the NCA.
“Laxman is currently mentor of IPL team Sunrisers Hyderabad, apart from being a commentator and cricket analyst. And he will leave it all for NCA now.”
Everyone had written us off; we are here to rectify that: Finch
Australian captain Aaron Finch has conceded that not winning the ICC T20 World Cup title so far has been a sore point with the Kangaroos and the final against New Zealand later on Sunday is the “best opportunity to rectify that”.
The closest Australia came to winning the T20 World Cup was during the 2010 edition held in the West Indies, where they lost to England by seven wickets.
“It’s one that’s eluded us in the past, and the fact that we are here in the final gives us the best opportunity to rectify that. Yeah, I think it will be a great game against New Zealand. They are a great side and they have been in all the finals over the last six years. Looking forward to it,” said Finch ahead of the title clash.
Finch added that despite critics writing his team off, the way the players had gone about their business was heartening.
“Everyone had written us off but we had a lot of confidence within. We’re really confident the way that we were preparing, the way that our strategy was coming together. Yeah, I think it hasn’t defied expectation. I think we came here with a really clear plan to win the tournament, and we still feel as though we’ve got the squad to do that.
“Well, I think the spirit among the team… and that’s been really impressive the way we’ve gone about our business. Everyone has prepared really well. Everyone has had a really defining match or match-defining performance at some point. The guys are really up and about for the final,” said Finch.
Finch added that batting stalwart Steve Smith’s form wasn’t a concern despite the fact that the former skipper has been unimpressive so far in the tournament, and the team management has drawn flak for persisting with him.
“No, not concerned one bit about his (Smith) form. He’s a world-class player and he’s someone in big games has showed how valuable he is. He’s been hitting the ball as well as I’ve seen for a long time, so no, no concerns there whatsoever.”
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