When the Mumbai Indians decided to sign Ricky Ponting for US $400,000 during the latest IPL auction, there was a lot of speculation about what they were really signing on for. The former Australian skipper is 38, no longer thinks he is good enough for international cricket and he only ever played 17 T20I's -- scoring 401 runs at an average of 28.64.
So when the news reached Ponting, he immediately sent Tendulkar a message.
"I sent him a message as soon as the auction was over just to say I'm looking forward to playing with him," Ponting told AAP after making an unbeaten 138 for Tasmania at Bellerive. "He sent a message straight back saying the same thing. It will be great fun for us to play together.
"We've played a lot against each other over the years and spent a little bit of time together off the field. I think I can still learn a fair bit from him as well. Hopefully he might even learn a few things off me."
So what are these things that the Mumbai Indians can learn from Ponting?
For starters, Ponting knows a thing or two about winning. The Mumbai Indians have won the Champions League but the Indian Premier League title has proved to be beyond them. In the first season, they finished fifth; in 2009, they finished second last; in 2010, they finished top of the league table but lost to Chennai in the final; in 2011, they finished top of Group A but were knocked in the play-offs before the final; in 2012, they once again finished third in the league but were knocked out in the semis by Chennai. So Mumbai are getting close but they haven't quite figured out how to take the final step.
Tactics. Ponting recently embraced Twenty20 cricket after playing a full tournament for the first time, the Big Bash League with the Hobart Hurricanes. But in the past, Mumbai were pretty much a one-man army when it came to tactics -- it was all Sachin Tendulkar. Having Ponting around will mean that Sachin will have a player of equal standing in terms of class and experience to use as a sounding board. Expect things to change this season.
Fielding. Even at 38, Ponting remains very fit and he can probably get the rest of the Mumbai Indians team to lift their standards a bit. In T20, every run saved is worth two scored. That's one lesson every including Tendulkar can learn from Ponting.
Batting. Last but certainly not the least. Ponting is slowly batting himself back into form in domestic cricket back in Australia. If he remains fit, he will probably play the whole season. In the IPL, Tendulkar has mainly preferred to play the anchor for a team that does not have a lot of experience in the batting department. Having Ponting in the team will allow Sachin Tendulkar to perhaps spread his wings as well. Who knows, we might even have the chance of watching Tendulkar and Ponting going full blast in tandem.
Now, won't that be quite in sight. In most books, it would be almost as good as Mumbai Indians winning the title.
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