Australia great Ricky Ponting has used the latest episode of The ICC Review to dissect the captaincy of Pat Cummins during the Ashes and provided some insight into how tactically different the opposing skippers are.
Decisions by both captains have been put under the microscope during the opening three games of an enthralling series, with many eyebrows raised when England skipper Ben Stokes declared early at Edgbaston and then further scrutiny arose when Cummins used inexperienced spinner Todd Murphy sparingly in the final innings of a tense contest at Headingley.
Cummins defended his decision not to bowl Murphy much in Leeds on the basis that the pitch was not conducive to spin and Ponting has come out in support of the Australia captain when speaking with host Sanjana Ganesan on the latest episode of The ICC Review.
“I think this has been one of the most tactical series that I could remember, because of the two different styles of play, probably two contrasting styles of leadership as well,” Ponting said.
“Pat (Cummins) is more of an old-fashioned sort of Test match captain where he sort of lets set fields and lets plans sort of unravel and is happy to do it over a long period of time, whereas Stokes is a bit the other way. He’s sort of trying to make something happen every ball and therefore sometimes plans never really have a chance to eventuate,” he said.
England’s decision to push Moeen Ali up to No.3 could also have influenced the decision to hold back Murphy, according to Ponting.
Although Ponting admitted the decision surprised him, he also pointed out that the pitch wasn’t taking too much turn and that Australia had fair reason to not use the spinner.
“The only surprise that I had from the second innings of that game was that he (Cummins) probably didn’t use Murphy a little bit earlier, which would have given him a chance to get into the game,” Ponting noted.
“And the longer he was held back, the harder it was going to be to introduce him into the game. So that would be the only question I would have had,” Ponting said.
“But as I said, they had their rights and reasoning behind not bringing him into the game,” he said.
“Yes, there was some grass on that wicket at Headingley, but it was also really dry underneath. But come day four, it still wasn’t turning,” Ponting said.
Ponting was certain that Murphy needs to stay in the XI for the Test in Manchester.
“I’ve got no doubt that he stays in the side. And I think when they get the chance, when Pat gets the chance, he might look at getting him into the game a little bit earlier next time,” Ponting said.
Cummins is still fairly new to captaincy, having first led the side in 2021. In the six series prior to this where he has led the team, Australia have lost only one (in India in 2023).
In 18 Tests as captain, Cummins has led Australia to wins in 10, with just four losses, three of them coming in Asia.
“Look, Pat is still fairly young in the job,” Ponting said.
“Let’s not forget that he’s only been doing it for a couple of years now and I’m sure he’s learning
along the way,” he said.
Ponting also reminded that it was important to wait until the end of the series before throwing verdicts on the tactics from both sides.
“I’m not going to question Pat at all,” he said.
“The fact that Australia are 2-1 up says he’s done a good job to me. There’ll always be little things in a game. When you lose, there are always little things in a game that people are happy to talk about,” Ponting said.
“But at the end of the day, I think the tactics are better off waiting to see what the result is at the end of the series and then we’ll be able to critique both captains on the result,” he added.