The downfall of the Australian cricket team is the fault of the media. So intimated Ricky Ponting whilst speaking to AllOutCricket.com, which, Punter may have forgotten, is a media outlet.
Punter reckoned that former Australian cricket greats were choosing to take big money to do TV commentary instead of being lured back into the system to coach and mentor by Cricket Australia (CA).
“CA) know this, I’ve been telling them this for a hundred years, they have to look at maybe paying state coaches more and trying to get the so-called experts in the game,” said Ponting, who, it must be mentioned, is doing commentary for BT Sport in Britain on the series.
“And it’s the same in England. If you look through the greats of the game, how many of those guys are actually back inside the system coaching somewhere?
“They’re not. They’re all sitting back behind a microphone commentating because they get paid more and itâ€™s less intrusive time-wise.
“I think it’s something that needs to be looked at.”
There is a legion of ex-players who say they want to give something back to the game, when what they would really like to do is to make sure the game keeps giving them something back. A commentator of my acquaintance told me that doing TV was just like still being on the cricket circuit as a player, except without the pesky training, actual playing and the stress.
Many years ago, I chaired an interview-chat for GQ magazine with David Richardson, Pat Symcox and John Robbie at an Irish bar in Montecasino.
Robbie owned the bar, as I recall. Richardson was yet to move to the International Cricket Council and had just started chatting on the telly. He had been shocked, he said, at how easy criticism came when you were commentating.
The distance between the changeroom and the commentary booth bursts the bubble that professional players can get stuck in. Ray Jennings, during his short stint as coach of the Proteas, would make the South Africans wear earphones in the changeroom so they could listen to SuperSport commentary.
His reasoning was that there was a lot of knowledge up in that box, and that the players may learn something about themselves.
No other coach has done it since, which is a pity.
What could Ponting or Shane Warne teach the Australians now. About the culture of the Baggy Green?
About confidence? About putting the fear into other teams? Neil McKenzie could teach them how to talk to players. As batting consultant, McKenzie focuses on strategy and intent, as much as technique. He speaks of when to attack, how to manage the game.
He teaches cricket gambling: when to fold them, when to hold them and when to walk away. McKenzie had one of those easy jobs as a commentator not so long ago. He chose to put something back into the game. Will Punter?