From sharing trade secrets with Spiderman and Iron Man during a promotional event,mingling with underprivileged kids to clowning around with the fringe Indian players in the Mumbai camp,Ricky Ponting has assimilated quite enduringly into the IPL universe.
On the field too,the 38-year-old Tasmanian has been refreshingly inspirational,ever ready with a piece of advice or a pat on the back for his wards,both young and old,local and overseas. In the last game against Delhi Daredevils,Ponting and Pragyan Ojha celebrated an outfield catch that the left-arm spinner had hung onto like two enthusiastic teenagers,exchanging high-fives and bear-hugs.
On Tuesday,he also demonstrated that his acclaimed reflexes in the field still remain as virile as ever. In more ways than one,Ponting has looked like he belongs in the IPL and at the helm of Mumbai Indians.
Except,unfortunately,at the crease. In three innings so far,the former Australian skipper has struggled to get going and if anything looked out of sorts with the bat,averaging 11.33 so far.
What would have disappointed Ponting the most about two of his failures in the tournament anyway is the fact that he got out attempting two of his patented shots-the pull-shot off the front foot and the lofted blow over mid-off after stepping down the wicket. The pertinent error on both occasions,lack of timing.
Against Chennais Ankit Rajpoot,he was too late on the shot,while against Irfan Pathan at Wankhede,he didnt reach the pitch of the ball,ensuring that his bottom-hand was called into action a bit too much.
Having come here directly from a long domestic season in Australian conditions,and age no longer on his side,Ponting is yet to come to terms with the pace or the lack of it on the pitches around India. Not to forget that the IPL doesnt really afford a batsman much time to get accustomed to the conditions,and rather forces him to make rapid and drastic alterations to his inherent technique.
No wonder then that the Mumbai skipper preferred to indulge in two lengthy sessions in the nets on the eve of his teams clash against Pune Warriors on Friday at the Wankhede Stadium. There were telltale signs here too about his inability to time the ball consistently.
Returning to form
But towards the end of his second stint,Ponting did end up middling more deliveries that he has so far during the tournament.
Pontings Test record in India might not stand out too impressively,but the aggressive right-hander always enjoyed the flatness of the pitches here when it came to ODI cricket,an average of close to 40 being testimony to that.
And it wont be a surprise if he does find his feet as the tournament progresses. The real problem for Ponting has been the similar travails of his opening partner. In a way,the two veteran stalwarts have ended up feeding off each others lack of confidence.
Some cynics have even dared to attribute Mumbais two successes so far to the failure of the openers,considering the enhanced rate of scoring achieved by the middle-order following their dismissals. But Tendulkar too has been unlucky of sorts,having been run-out in two out of three matches.
And it will most certainly be Tendulkar and Ponting who will open the batting for Mumbai as they look to record a hat-trick of wins in IPL VI.
Incidentally,it will be the first time in the last three years that Tendulkar will be walking out to open the innings with the same partner for the fourth match running.