Two-time World Cup winning captain Ricky Ponting feels Micheal Clarke is the right man to lead Australia at the cricket World Cup but says he should relinquish ODI captaincy after the mega event.
“I believe that the right time for Michael to hand over the one-day captaincy to Steven will be after the conclusion of this World Cup,” Ponting said.
“In Michael’s body and mind he may only have another two or three years left at Test level, and I think it would be a good time for Steven to take over the one-day job and Michael to remain as Test captain.
“This would give Smithy a bit more of a chance to get used to the idea of captaining his country long-term.”
However, Ponting also said he has no doubt that Clarke is the best man to lead Australia to World Cup glory.
“At the same time, I am firm in believing that Michael is the right man to lead the team through this World Cup campaign,” Ponting wrote in his column for ESPNcricinfo.com.
“A tournament at home, with favouritism mounting, is a lot of pressure to be under, and I am very confident about Michael’s capacity to handle that given his years of experience and success.
“Smithy will be a fine ODI captain in time, but the next six weeks should be Michael’s moment to chart the team to his own Cup success,” said the three-time World Cup winner.
Sharing his experience of leading the Australian team, Ponting said Smith has impressed in the limited opportunities he had got but advocated a slow and steady approach to captaincy for him.
Talking about the year ahead, he said, “I think that’s the way things will go this year, meaning Michael can concentrate fully on the task of beating West Indies at home and then retaining the Ashes in England.
“Smithy will hopefully make a heap of runs in those series, and then be able to lead the ODI team as it builds towards the 2017 Champions Trophy in England.”
The 40-year-old said Clarke will be in a best position to prepare for Tests, specially the Ashes series, if he retires from the one-day format.
“Retiring from one-day games will also allow Michael’s body regular rest and recovery periods, something that has effectively taken place numerous times already as he has sat out a lot of ODI series,” he said.
“He can be better prepared for Test series because he won’t just be on the road going series by series and having to change quickly from one format to another – too few international cricketers get the chance to spend regular time out, recharging their physical batteries and sorting out any technical kinks produced by an unforgiving schedule,” said Ponting.
“A fresh and focused Michael would be a huge advantage in England. Apart from anything else he is one of the world’s best batsmen, and to take him out of the Test top six for the Ashes would be similar to removing AB de Villiers from South Africa’s line-up.
“I know Smithy and others did a good job during the summer, but India in Australia is a very different scenario to defending the Ashes away from home. Without Michael in that situation, our batting all of a sudden starts to look a lot more vulnerable,” Ponting added.
The 33-year-old Clarke made a steady comeback from his hamstring surgery as he hit 64 in Australia’s World Cup warm-up match against the UAE and Ponting said he looks in good shape to lead the four-time champions in the quadrennial event starting on Saturday.
“For now, Michael looks ready to lead the team through this tournament with the probable exception of the opening game against England on Saturday. He has made solid progress in his return from surgery, ticking the boxes required of him by the selectors, whether it be batting, fielding or even bowling,” said Ponting, who captained Australia in 324 matches scoring over 27,000 runs.
“His public declarations of fitness and mental freshness should set him up for a terrific campaign as both a captain and a batsman. What that does as well is to take away a bit of that speculation about who’s going to be the captain during the Cup, is Michael going to make it and how everyone feels about that.”
Ponting felt Clarke looks good enough to play at least for the next two years and can keep representing Australia if his batting average remains around 50.
“Michael certainly sounds driven to keep playing for a while yet. He has the difficulty of not knowing when his body is going to declare enough is enough, but I would expect him to go on for at least the next two years,” he said.
“Ultimately, his future will be dependent on how well he plays. If he’s kept his Test batting average around 50, he will be able to play on until he thinks it is time to retire.”