Friday, May 24, 2024

Ricky Ponting: ‘The default setting now for batting is T20 and everything else works around that’

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Who was the player of the match in the first men’s T20 international? The answer is the subject of this interview. Ricky Ponting scored 98 in that one-off T20I between New Zealand and Australia, which was played as a bit of a hit-and-giggle in Auckland in 2005.

A bonafide great of the game, as player and captain, Ponting is widely recognised as being among the sharpest brains in cricket, and few read and call the game better than him. In 2015, three years after retiring, he helped Rohit Sharma’s Mumbai Indians win their second IPL. Since 2018, he has been head coach at Delhi Capitals, who have made the IPL playoffs twice in that time.

Nearly two decades on since the first international, T20 is now the most popular format in cricket. Its exponential growth has become a real threat to its two older sibling formats, Ponting agrees, in this interview where he looks at the evolution of T20 over the years.

I’m sure you’ve caught up with what happened in Bengaluru last night – the match between Royal Challengers Bengaluru and Sunrisers Hyderabad where 549 runs were scored. What were your thoughts?
My son Fletcher’s the one that told me what was going on. He came rushing over to the nets and said, “Dad, Travis Head’s just got a hundred off 39 balls. So I’m like, wow. At that stage [Sunrisers] were 170 off 12 overs or something. That’s the second time they have done it. We have been on the receiving end too: Calcutta [Kolkata Knight Riders] got us as well – they got 260 odd against us.



“Four balls into an over and I’m like, ‘Oh, this is going to happen here’, and it does and I can’t do anything about it. That’s the hardest part of coaching”

I didn’t think a 300 score would ever be possible, but it looks like it’s going to be. With this impact player rule as well, it’s allowing more freedom to batters. They’re going out there and just going from ball one. There’s no, you know, take five, six balls to get in and get set. It’s go out and hit from ball one. And if you come off, you come off, and even if you only face 15 balls and you get 40, that’s a big impact on the game.

That’s what we talk about with our boys all the time. It’s about however big or small the moment is, how much time or how little time you get as a batsman, just really try and have an impact on the game. That’s what some of these players are doing. It’s one thing to talk about Sunrisers last night, but RCB were pretty good as well, weren’t they?

Both of [Sunrisers’] big totals, they have only won by like 20 runs, haven’t they? There’s some pretty crazy things happening. Certainly with the last two IPLs, with the impact player rule coming in, it’s gone from being a game that’s dominated by defence to a game that’s now being dominated by attack.

These tournaments used to be won on really good, strong defensive bowling units. And it might still well be, because if you do have the best bowling attack that’s able to restrict some of this manic batting that’s happening, then you might go a long way to winning. But you would think with these sorts of scores being made that the bowlers are going to find it harder and harder. The fact that Sunrisers have done it a couple of times, it basically just says that there’s no reason everyone else can’t do it. So everyone else is going to be trying to play that way as well. Because you know that to beat them you are going to have to do the same thing. So everyone’s going to have to learn how to play this way to try and win the IPL.

From lark to large: T20 has come a long way from its beginnings in the early 2000s. Above, Ponting bats in the very first international, in 2005, with a New Zealand fielder in retro kit and headband looking on


From lark to large: T20 has come a long way from its beginnings in the early 2000s. Above, Ponting bats in the very first international, in 2005, with a New Zealand fielder in retro kit and headband looking on

Hamish Blair / © Getty Images


Let’s go back to Auckland, 2005, the first men’s T20 international. I’m guessing you remember who the player of the match was?
Yep.

It had been played in the UK before that, but none of us had played any T20 cricket at all. I did the press conference before the game and I remember saying it was a great idea for it to be a marketing tool for the 50-over game, to try and reinvigorate the 50-over game because that was on its way down. And I actually thought that’s what [T20] was all about: introducing it to the younger generation, getting them interested in the game again. And then that would have a flow-on effect to 50-over cricket and Test cricket. Well, I was a fair bit off there!

But even the way that both teams approached that – you remember New Zealand, they wore their old retro kits and they all had the big afros, and I mucked around with the batting order. I batted at five [No. 4] or something in that game.

You said at the time, “It’s difficult to take this seriously.”
Matthew Hayden kept saying to me: “Mate, I’m telling you, this is the future. This is where the game’s going.” And I’m like, “No, it’s not, mate. It’s not going to last. Everyone’s going to get sick of seeing fours and sixes and the novelty of this game will wear off quickly.” He was right and I was wrong.

To be honest, [T20] hasn’t really changed much at all since that first game that we played. But what we have seen certainly in this IPL, the game is changing 1714732735. And that’s just on the back of the impact player rule. In international cricket there’s been no dramatic rise in scoring rates. That’s been pretty much the same. It’s the IPL where it’s showed up.



“However big or small the moment is, how much time or how little time you get as a batsman, you just need to really try and have an impact on the game”

Brisbane Heat won the Big Bash last year on the back of the best defensive bowling. So that’s, without that impact player, all about bowlers. With the impact player, now it’s all about batters.

At what point did you adapt to and become more open to T20 cricket?
Oh, look, those reservations were just right at the start. It didn’t take long for me to realise that this is where the game is heading. My first year in IPL, at KKR, was cut short to just four games, and then my international career was winding down. I pretty much gave up T20 cricket early to try and stretch out my Test and one-day career. Something had to give because I wanted to play that 2011 World Cup and then I ideally wanted the 2013 Ashes, but I never quite got there.

But after retiring, having a year off, getting the chance to go and coach Mumbai [Indians] in the IPL [2015], and since then I have worked broadcasting T20 cricket back at home with the Big Bash, so I’m around the game all the time.

Being able to commentate on it during the [Australian] summer and then being able to coach, they both work really well hand in hand. Because when I’m commentating, I can talk about what I’m seeing and the trends in the game and whatever else. And then when I go and coach, I can actually talk to the players about what’s happening. what’s new and what we need to do.

You’re different from most other broadcasters we have heard because of how you seem to be able to predict things. You are watching every ball, reading moves, talking match-ups, looking at the next ball, and talking about on-field plans…
When I’m watching, I’m thinking about the game as a captain. I’m trying to stay a couple of overs ahead of what’s actually happening in the game. So if I was sitting in the commentary box during the Australia-South Africa World Cup semi-final [last November] and [Adam] Zampa had just come on, I’m sort of looking around the field and I’m like, “Geez, these two [David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen] are playing Zampa really well, what other options have Australia got?

Ponting as commentator:


Ponting as commentator: “[While calling a game] I’m looking around, thinking, ‘What can I do now as a captain?’ And if I can sort of translate that through the commentary…”

Gareth Copley / © ICC/Getty Images


I looked around, I saw Travis Head. And I’m like, “He’d be a good match-up to these two guys.” So I actually said [on air]: “It’s time now, they’ve got to get Travis Head on. Zampa’s had no impact.” Head came on the next over and got two wickets in that over – Klaasen and Marco Jansen.

I’m looking around, thinking, “What can I do now as a captain?” And then if I can sort of translate that through the commentary and then actually have it come out and work, then it’s, you know…

Let’s talk batting. How have batters got better in T20s?
They are definitely stronger. They have got less fear. That’s the biggest part – the only thing that holds batters back in T20, or cricket in general, is the fear of getting out. In a Test match, if you are scared of getting out, you lose your instincts, you don’t play any shots, you don’t score, and then if you think about getting out, inevitably you get out. If you go out in any game and think about scoring runs first, then you’ll score runs.

Travis Head, I’m not sure if you watched that [2023 World Cup] game against New Zealand in Dharamsala, he literally went out and just swung at everyone right from the start. You can’t do that if you’re scared of getting out.



“The only way to be unpredictable as a bowler is to be predictable, because the batter’s trying to guess what the bowler is going to do”

That’s not a general trend, though, right? Though it might become one…
It’s going to have to catch up. If you want to win these tournaments you can’t be scared. You have to take it on. You can’t be worried about failing. You have to have a picture of – and this is what I say to our boys all the time: for you as an individual, and as a team, you have to have a picture of what success looks like. If you don’t have a picture of what success looks like for you in your head, then you’ll never know where you are going or how you are going to get there. And this whole fear-of-failure thing, I’ve never understood what that means…

Because you yourself played fearlessly.
But I have just never thought about not doing well. I always had this [thought]: “Okay, what do I have to do now to, to win?” Not for me to score runs or whatever. What do I need to do now to win and how can I do that? And that’s the mindset I have always had. And what we are trying to do here [at Capitals] with our boys, with our players, is actually ingrain that in them.

Going back to the batting side – they are playing more of T20. The default setting now for batting is T20 and then everything else works around that. It was never that way. And as they are playing more, so they are training more. This range-hitting stuff that they are doing, they have a really clear understanding now of exactly what they need to do to clear the ropes at every venue they go to. I will go to the ground today and guys will spend an hour and a half in the middle just range-hitting, just hitting balls into the stands and getting a feel for how they have to swing, or how hard they have to hit. We never ever trained that.

The other part of batting getting better is that batters are able to score 360 degrees around the ground, and you have only got a certain amount of fielders.

Kuldeep Yadav in the game against Lucknow Super Giants where Delhi restricted LSG to 167.


Kuldeep Yadav in the game against Lucknow Super Giants where Delhi restricted LSG to 167. “These tournaments used to be won on really good, strong defensive bowling units, and they might still well be,” Ponting says

Saikat Das / © BCCI


We spoke about RCB nearly chasing down 288. The way Dinesh Karthik accessed those areas – even if Chinnaswamy is a small ground, he made 83 off 35 balls. The asking rate was nearly 20 for the final eight-odd overs and RCB lost by 25 runs. Does it show that batters are also assessing situations better and getting smarter?
And the effect that has on the bowler is that it confuses the bowler – he doesn’t know where to bowl. We’ve had a few instances this year where some of our bowlers have just got caught in the headlights a little bit and got away from the ball they need to bowl. I mean, they understand their plans and where they need to bowl, but when a batter plays a good shot to the first ball, which the bowler thinks is a good ball, then they get away from that and they get scrambled, and they actually lose what they are good at.

I don’t want to give too much away, but once again I talk about default settings. As a bowler, in a situation like that, you have actually just got to go back and bowl your best ball. Don’t worry about what the batter is doing. But it’s hard for a bowler to fathom that because he thinks, “Hang on, I’ve just bowled the best ball I can bowl and DK has got it over the keeper’s head for four. I can’t do that again. I’m not going to bowl that ball again.”

But what he should actually be doing is, he should be bowling that ball six times in a row and see if the batter can do that six times in a row. The only way to be unpredictable as a bowler is to be predictable, because the batter’s trying to guess what the bowler is going to do. So there’s all these ways to think about it.

There are a few tactics in the game that are underused: round the wicket to right-handers is underused. What you are trying to do is limit areas on the ground where the ball can actually go. So you talk about playing percentages. If a right-arm bowler, round the wicket to a right-hand batter, is hitting him on the heel, theoretically there’s not too many balls that should go on the off side. All of a sudden you have cut the ground in half, and unless [the batter] goes over the fence, if you have put the fielders in the right spots, you theoretically have a chance of being able to minimise damage.



“The only thing that holds batters back in T20, or cricket in general, is the fear of getting out. If you go out in any game and think about scoring runs first, then you’ll score runs”

It’s about putting that thinking hat on in a live scenario.
It’s a hard skill as well. It’s an unusual thing for a bowler. We did it last game [against Lucknow Super Giants] a little bit . We will probably end up doing that a little bit more as the tournament goes on.

Do you think 250 will become the norm?
I think in India it will.

Because of the impact player?
And the ground sizes as well. We were talking about this only last night – it’d be a really cool thing, I reckon, to see two IPL teams play a game at the MCG. It’d be an interesting concept.

You’d expect the bowler to have a bigger say, with the bigger boundaries?
The bowler’s got a little bit more purchase than in India, and we can see what the impact rule does on a bigger ground.

Look where these big scores have been made this year: like Chinnaswamy. Go back to the first ever IPL game – I’m standing at the other end when Brendon McCullum made 158. So it can happen in certain venues. Mumbai. If Delhi’s a good pitch this year, there’ll be some huge scores there. I will guarantee that.

Runaway run rates: Prithvi Shaw and David Warner in the game against Chennai Super Kings in Vizag where they got 62 in the powerplay and put on 93 for the first wicket. Ponting:


Runaway run rates: Prithvi Shaw and David Warner in the game against Chennai Super Kings in Vizag where they got 62 in the powerplay and put on 93 for the first wicket. Ponting: “And it didn’t even feel like we had that many”

Deepak Malik / © BCCI


A trend this IPL has been that powerplay scores have increased significantly. At one time 60 was par, but teams are now looking at scoring 75 in the powerplay in the IPL.
I’m telling you, a couple of years ago with us, when [Shikhar] Dhawan and [Prithvi] Shaw were opening, one of our mantras was to get to 45 for none or one down. Even before the last two years, par in powerplay would be 45 to 50 through the IPL. Now this year it’ll be a lot more and teams are doing it easily. We got 62 – Shaw and Warner in the Chennai game. And it didn’t even feel like we had that many. It’s ten an over for the first six overs, and it just felt like we were in second gear still.

Where do you stand on batting strike rates as a measure?
It depends on the batting position. We used to work on a formula – a combined average and strike rate. If that was a certain number, then you’d classify that player as being good. If your strike rate was 160 and your average was 20, it equalled 180 and that was okay. If your strike rate was 130 but your average was 50, at the top of the order, you’d probably take that as well. That equals 180.

But strike rate is increasingly becoming more important. Previously the big thing in T20 batting was, if one of your top-order players got an 80-plus score and then someone got a 40-plus score, you generally won most games doing that. But now it’s probably the strike-rate thing. Every batter – it looks to me, anyway – is going at to try and achieve a certain strike rate. It doesn’t even matter how many balls they face. Because they have got the safety blanket now in the impact batter coming in.

In international cricket, where teams have allrounders, can they look at scoring similarly? If you have depth, an allrounder who can bat, isn’t that like having an impact player?
Yeah, if you have got seven, eight, nine guys that can bat, obviously that helps. But you still don’t see many teams winning big events with lots of allrounders, lots of bits-and-pieces players. It’s generally the specialists who get the job done. Pick your best six batters and your best five bowlers in any format and you won’t go far wrong.



“Some guys don’t want to train at all the day before a game, which is something that doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m like, no!”

So if you were an international coach, would that be what you’d do?
You pick your best players, obviously. I mean, Australia will probably go into this T20 World Cup with [Mitchell] Marsh, [Glenn] Maxwell, Head, who can bowl, [Cameron] Green, [Marcus] Stoinis. They have a whole lot of allrounders, but the thing with those guys is, they all get themselves picked as a batter or a bowler, not as a bits-and-pieces type. Marsh gets picked as a batter. Stoinis will get picked as a batter. Maxwell will get picked as a batter. They just happen to be able to bowl an over or two here and there, if needed.

So specialists make the best team?
Yeah, 100%. With the T20 game, the more specialist roles now are the finishing batting roles. So the No. 6 and 7 batters are probably just about the most important players in the line-up. You look at us in the IPL, we obviously have had Mitch Marsh go down injured, we have got Tristan Stubbs, who’s done amazingly well for us, in that five-six role. But if you look at what’s left in the auction list, there’s none of those players there. They are the players that everyone wants, so they are the specialist roles you are probably talking about.

Is the anchor batter still useful in T20 cricket? Take the examples of Kane Williamson or even Ruturaj Gaikwad. After CSK’s first match this season, against RCB, where his team chased successfully, Gaikwad said that a top-order batter could have batted through the chase.
Once again, depends on what you have got after that. That’s generally been Chennai’s model. They want someone to play that way, so that makes life easier for [Ravindra] Jadeja and [MS] Dhoni at the end. They played that way 14 years in IPL: one of their top-order batters looks to do that.

Actually, Mumbai used to play that way as well. They have turned things around this year, but they have always had someone at the top and someone coming in at three or four that’s been a bit of a stabiliser, and then setting things up for [Kieron] Pollard and these guys at the end. Now it’s [Tim] David. Hardik [Pandya] tried to play that role against us actually when we played them at Wankhede. He came in earlier, got 30 off 30 or something, but he was setting it up for Romario Shepherd and Tim David at the end, and then they came out and exploded.

Ponting with Rishabh Pant.


Ponting with Rishabh Pant. “There’s no coincidence to me, the teams that have had the most success in the IPL have had the best captain”

© Delhi Capitals


Because of the squads you have got, you can never put out a perfect XI, or now it is 12, in the IPL. You are always going to have a little hole somewhere in your line-up, and you have to find a way around trying to plug that the best way that you possibly can. Chennai, if they were to try and play the way that Sunrisers are playing now, and lost a few early wickets, all of a sudden you have got Jadeja and Dhoni in in the eighth or ninth over – they don’t want that. They need someone that bats late, so that Jadeja and Dhoni can get the last four or five overs only.

One element of batting, which we hear a lot about on commentary, is bat swing and hand speed. Can you explain to the layperson what that is and how that helps?
The bat speed – a lot of the guys that are batting at the death now are getting a lot of 140kph yorkers, so they have obviously got to move the bat really, really fast.

Bat speed and bat swing are different things.

Guys pick the bat up differently. Some guys have got a longer swing of the bat, some guys have got a jerky, a more upright, swing, and therefore they are doing most of their work with their hands. So they will swing the bat faster to create the same impact, whereas other guys will take the bat back further and then create the same sort of inertia into the ball from a longer swing.

Dhoni’s got a bit of both – if you look at the way he picks the bat up, his hands go a long way back, behind his body, and the bat comes all the way back. So he’s got a longer swing, but he’s got really fast hands that go with it. Rishabh [Pant]’s got really quick, snappy hands. He hasn’t got a classical bat swing. If you put Rishabh and Yuvraj Singh side by side, one’s got a beautiful, flowing swing, and Rishabh’s just got all the other stuff. Nicholas Pooran’s got a beautiful long, pure bat swing, where it just looks like the ball goes where it should go every single time.

You spoke about backing attacking batting with defensive bowling. Can you expand on that?
The last Big Bash was a great example this year with Brisbane Heat – Colin Munro left after about eight games. He was their leading run-scorer [at that point]. He had had like 220 runs or something. So basically a top-order batter is averaging under 30 and they were top of the table. They had Xavier Bartlett, Michael Neser, Spencer Johnson, and two good spinners and Paul Walter. They just bowled better than everybody else. And they didn’t need to do a lot with the bat, or when they didn’t do much with the bat, their bowlers were good enough to bail them out.



“You still don’t see many teams winning big events with lots of allrounders. Pick your best six batters and your best five bowlers in any format and you won’t go far wrong”

Defensive bowling units are going to win the game, the competition, for you. And it’s going to be interesting to see how this IPL plays out because with most teams doing what they are doing now, with the way that they are batting, when the big games come, it’s going be interesting to see if they will continue batting aggressively.

You look at what [Jasprit] Bumrah’s been able already to do a couple of times this year: bowl four overs for 20, execute yorkers perfectly nearly all the time. Rashid Khan’s been the other one for several years – he very rarely goes for more than 30 runs in his four overs. As a bowling captain and a bowling team, you have just got these bankers that you can call on so that if a game starts to get away… and you are always looking ahead as well: What batters are coming in? Do I keep Bumrah for him? Do I use Bumrah now and try and close the game out earlier?

You have been a T20 coach for a long time. It’s a round-the-clock job. With the way the format has evolved, is your job as head coach now more than just man management?
More than ever, it’s about man management now. Once upon a time it was about organising the nets and keeping a look at your clock to see how long the batters have been batting for. It’s not about that anymore. This generation of players sort of demands a little bit more from coaching and understanding them. We try and tailor everyone’s training session to what they want every day. I put messages out every night: tell me what you want from your practice tomorrow and I’ll make sure I get it done for you. So some guys will want 30 minutes against the new-ball bowlers. Some guys will want spin and throwdowns only. Like a customised session. And you have got to give them that to make them comfortable going into a game. Even yesterday, for example, I only had 15 guys at training to make sure I was getting a lot of work into the guys that are most likely to play the game and giving them more time on what they need.

Some guys don’t want to train at all the day before a game, which is something that doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m like, no! If I had my way, they’d be training yesterday and today for three hours each day to go into the game. Because as a coach, you want to know that you have ticked all the boxes and that they are 100% ready tactically and skill-wise to go and play the game.

But it’s not just all about that now. It’s about making sure they have got what they need, making sure they have got the right amount of rest, making sure they are in the right headspace for everything, minimising meeting times and all that stuff – just to try and give them all the information you can in as short and simple a way as possible. And then hoping that they can come out and do it for you on game day.

In an interview with us recently Stephen Fleming was talking about how he worked with an Australian forensic psychologist, Dave Reid, at a workshop that was about helping coaches deal with pressure, expectations, results and such. It is interesting to see how successful coaches also put in the effort to evolve.
That guy you are talking about, he might have done some work with Flem at the Melbourne Stars as well, I reckon.

You should be evolving every day because you are learning something about the game or something about one of the players or a couple of players in your set-up every day. And you are learning about yourself every day: how you best work and operate in different situations and scenarios, and best work with different players. But if there’s a way that you can expedite that and make it happen quicker and learn faster, then absolutely.

You were among the greatest captains. Now you are a successful coach. Is T20 a captain-driven game or is it a partnership between captain and coach?
All cricket is [captain-driven]. Yes, it’s a partnership, but the frustrating part about coaching is, once the game starts, you can’t do anything about it. That’s the thing that I struggle with the most. And I was saying this to Sourav [Ganguly, Capitals’ director of cricket] the other day. I don’t think he’s ever coached before and he doesn’t get the frustration that goes with it. As I was explaining to him the other day, when we were playing, if I was in the field, if one ball came my way, I had the chance to change the outcome of the game or where the game was going. If I was batting, I obviously knew I could change the outcome or where the game was going.



“The more specialist roles now are the finishing batting roles. So the No. 6 and 7 batters are probably just about the most important players in the line-up”

But once the game starts, as a coach you are sitting there, you know you can’t. [And you hope] everything that you have done with the boys, everything you have talked with the captain about, hopefully that all pans out the way you wanted it to. But four balls into an over and I’m like, “Oh, this is going to happen here”, and it does and I can’t do anything about it – that’s the hardest part of coaching.

I don’t know how closely you watch us but I generally always have one of the younger guys sitting beside me, and I’ll say, “Watch, this is about to happen” or “It’s about time this guy, he should bowl this over”, or straight out of the powerplay, “We need this bowler to bowl.” I’ll be just tapping him on the leg and starting a conversation. So it’s a good way to educate them about all the little things in the game.

The captaincy side, I mean, there’s no coincidence to me, the teams that have had the most success in the IPL have had the best captain. And they have been there for a long time and they have had good, solid citizens around them. Mumbai and Chennai, yes, they have had strong captains, but also the leadership around. You think of the other senior guys that Dhoni has had around him at CSK. Think of the senior guys that Rohit [Sharma]’s had around him at MI. Think about their coaching groups. They have had a really good, solid core.

And then you can every year add two or three new guys around that. And that’s what I’m trying to create here at DC. If these franchises and teams are so much built on culture, then if you are constantly changing [personnel] all the time and bringing new ones in every year, like, where’s the culture go? The culture goes out and then you’re going to rebuild. It takes a half-season to rebuild it, then it goes again.

Chennai, Mumbai have never done that. And you think back to Calcutta’s best days, when [Gautam] Gambhir was there and captain of that team, that was when they were at their best. And they have been sort of chasing every other year and trying to put pieces back together again.

We are family: Ponting says he is a big believer in a stable franchise culture that endures over years


We are family: Ponting says he is a big believer in a stable franchise culture that endures over years

Samuel Rajkumar / © BCCI


So the captaincy is a huge part of it. Huge part of it. One, from the trust and the respect of the players that he’s got on the field, but also just the tactical nous and experience to know what the game needs, know what the team needs here and now and then being able to do it.

What is your position on the club versus country topic, which is probably the biggest concern for cricket now? The amount of cricket that is played – red ball and white ball, bilateral, World Cups, franchise leagues – there’s no switch-off period. Do the governing bodies need to think seriously about overload?
Yeah, the game’s in a pretty dangerous phase right now. I have said that for the last couple of years actually with Test cricket – some of the stronger, bigger Test-playing nations that we once talked about 20, 30 years ago, are probably not in the position of strength that they once were for those reasons being talked about. Because there’s so much other cricket for their players to go and play that they are opting to go to rather than represent their country. But the other thing we have to understand is that a cricketer’s career is a very short one. So you can’t really begrudge players for going and doing what they are doing now.

The interesting model for me is Pakistan’s, where their international players are only being allowed to play, I think, two T20 comps a year.

Did you read what Kagiso Rabada said recently about how you can’t blame the players for South Africa sending a second-string side to New Zealand?
That was really sad to see, to be honest. It should never ever happen like that, but it goes to show the power of the game as well. That all the best players stay and play their domestic T20 competition when they are playing Test matches overseas against another very good team.

South Africa sent a team to Australia a couple of years ago where I was really worried about where their Test cricket was going. Because the team was so poor. And then we had a look at their FTP, they were only playing something like five Test matches in the next 12 months. And a team that’s going down like this, they need more and more cricket. So it was sad.



“If you don’t have a picture of what success looks like for you in your head, then you’ll never know where you are going or how you are going to get there”

Is there no solution in sight?
No, there’s not, unfortunately. So it’s interesting the way that you worded it there: club versus country. Because I think it’s probably going to end up going more that way. More the soccer path – play more for your club and less for your country. Certainly for some countries.

Does cricket need to accept it – not just the boards but also the fans?
I don’t know if they need to accept it, but I don’t know what the answer is. A lot of the committees, when I was sitting on them, we were all talking about: how do we manage this, what are we going to do?

I was a big believer back when I was there about trying to find some uniformity across payments for international Test match players, even if it’s a match fee. So if Australia played West Indies, then there’s a uniform-like Test payment; maybe something the ICC controls, which might make West Indies players want to actually stay and play more Test matches if they are getting a good fee for that Test match rather than not playing or not accepting a contract.

What I was saying at the time was the ICC hands out so much funds and grants to a lot of these smaller nations, but it’d be great if they had some control over where that money was going. So my point to MCC [World Cricket Committee] was, if a certain amount of money is going to Country A, [stipulate that] that country’s got to put a proposition to the ICC to say, look, this is what we need the funding for, this is where it’s going to go. Rather than just handing the money over, see it’s going to a certain cause straight away – whether it’s match payments, whether it’s first-class cricket, whether it’s upgrading facilities, whatever it is.

What about a two-tier Test championship?
I don’t see what that helps.

But if the bigger countries don’t want to play the smaller countries?
I don’t think they don’t want to. It’s the boards and TV [broadcasters], they are the ones that are controlling that. It’s not that Australia [the team] wouldn’t want to play against Zimbabwe. Players want to play against everyone in all conditions, but governing bodies don’t because they are not making anything out of it.

I’ll put a TV hat on. If I’m Channel 7 and a broadcast deal’s coming up for the next five years and you look at the FTP and England and India aren’t coming to Australia, then what am I actually buying?

I’ve seen a few Delhi Capitals’ training sessions over the years. I have seen your son Fletcher grow from afar. People used to roll balls to him once, and the other day I saw him in Mullanpur throwing at stumps and bowling. We’ve heard that at the end of each session you give him throwdowns. How do you manage the family thing, like having your son travelling with you, him enjoying his cricket, while you’re coaching?
Our whole family has just really embraced the Delhi Capitals. We have been coming now for, I guess, probably four or five years. They have been able to travel and be with the team. It probably all really started to kick in when the whole IPL was in Mumbai [during the Covid-19 pandemic] and we lived in the bubble in the hotel, at the Taj, and for my kids and even Rianna [Ponting’s wife] to be able to mix with the players and go and sit in the team room… Fletcher would go and play FIFA with them and sit on the PlayStation all day and have lunch and breakfast with the boys and then go to training.

He’s a proper cricket tragic now. He’s just got to the age where he’s played a couple of years of competitive cricket back in Melbourne. He just loves the game. He loves the team and gets a chance to hang out with the boys, and the boys look after him really, really well. He’s only missed a couple of training sessions since he’s been here, but he will sit and watch and then he’ll just wait for his chance at the end of the day to put his pads on and go and face 20 or 30 throwdowns from me in the nets.



“If you want to win these tournaments you can’t be scared. You have to take it on. You can’t be worried about failing”

Fletcher knows very well where he stands when it’s cricket training. He gets nothing from me until the last ball is bowled and everyone’s exited the net. So he sits and waits and then we go. He’ll honestly sit there for four hours and ask questions and talk with the boys and just wait for his turn. So he loves it.

And the girls [Emmy and Matisse Ellie] are equally invested – even when we’re at home, they sleep in this stuff [Capitals jerseys]. This is their pajamas. Right through the year they are always just talking about the Delhi Capitals and can’t wait to get back over there to the IPL, because what we’ve been able to do here is – and certainly we talk about it all the time – just really try and create one big family where everyone looks after each other and shares moments together. And my family’s lucky to be a part of it.

So it’s good for you as a parent to have your family with you. You must have missed this during your playing days when you were on tour.
Yeah. But my family only know one way as well: they only know me around cricket and around cricket teams. They have a really good understanding of when it’s cricket time and when it’s Dad’s turn to work, and when they can share a part of the day after I’m done. As simple as that.

Even this morning, I’ll get all this stuff [interview] out of the way. We’ve got team meetings, like bowlers’ meetings, that start at three o’clock, so I won’t see the family much at all today. But they understand that and they’ll find their own things to do until I get back at 10.30 tonight, and then we’ll get ready to play the game tomorrow.

But I’m lucky there that my wife’s always been really accepting of what comes with me being a player or me being a coach. We try and divide our time as well as we can, but, yeah, they know when it’s Dad’s turn to go to work.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo






 




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