x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Ponting is the key to hopes of a fightback

Former teammate Adam Gilchrist believes beleaguered captain has been harshly treated and maintains he remains vital to Australia's chances of victory this summer.

Adam Gilchrist may have long retired from the international cricket scene but that hasn't stopped the former Australia wicketkeeper from delivering a few lusty blows. The 37-year-old enjoyed a stellar career in the baggy green, playing in a record 96 consecutive Tests before walking to the pavilion for the final time last year. His exit brought about the end of a wonderful era of Australian dominance as Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne bowed out of the Test arena to signal a change in the guard.

Now the current crop, under the guidance of the captain Ricky Ponting, are staring down the barrel following their crushing second Test defeat at Lord's. Ponting is just 25 runs short of replacing Allan Border as his country's top run scorer. But the man himself is under pressure going into today's third Test at Edgbaston with the talented batsman having been fiercely criticised for his team's performances. Yet, Gilchrist believes Ponting has been harshly treated and maintains he remains the key to Australia's chances of victory this summer.

"I think the criticism Ricky is getting is totally unfair and uncalled for," said the former vice-captain who stepped in for Steve Waugh and Ponting whenever they were not available. "Ricky is an excellent captain and a world-class player so I think some people should just let him get on with it. You only have to look at how he leads his team by example and the way the other players feed off him. If Ricky plays well then Australia will win the Ashes. He's just as important for Australia as Andrew Flintoff or Kevin Pietersen for England."

With Pietersen missing from the England team for the remainder of the series, the tourists believe they have every chance of hitting back in Birmingham. Much depends on Australia's ability to get their key players firing on all cylinders with Mitchell Johnson still woefully out of form and opener Phillip Hughes facing the prospect of being replaced by all-rounder Shane Watson. Gilchrist remains positive and is waiting for a strong reaction from his former teammates.

"The first Test was fantastic but it was hard for us because we so nearly won," he said. "We have some fantastic players and I'm sure they will come back because we're still a very good team. "They need to deal with Flintoff because he really is the key. He is one of the best in the world and I know I hated facing him because he always got me out. "If we can see him off then we have every chance because I'm sure Australia can still win the series."

Having watched the first two Test matches, Gilchrist has returned home. The New South Wales man took over the captaincy of Deccan Chargers, then the bottom-placed team in the Indian Premier League, and led them to victory early this year. Does any part of him wish he was still out there in the thick of the action? "I don't miss playing at all," replied Gilchrist. "I love the game and I love watching but I've no desire to get back out there.

"I really enjoyed watching the last match because it was so exciting as it was everything Test cricket should be. "It's going to be a very tight series and although I think Australia are the better team, I don't think they'll necessarily win by much. "For me, Ricky Ponting is the key because if he plays well for Australia then the others will feed off him and we still have a really good chance." sports@thenational.ae