Former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting dominated bowlers- pace or spin- across formats during his decorated 17-year-old international career but if there was a bowler who continued to get the better of him on a consistent basis, it was former Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.
In an interaction with Ravichandran Ashwin’s Youtube show ‘DRS with Ash’, Ponting opened up about his struggles against the ‘turbanator’; one that started during the 2001 edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in India.
Harbhajan Singh, who claimed a record- 32 wickets in the three-match series, claimed the wicket of Ricky Ponting on each of the five occasions that the Aussie No.3 batted in the rubber.
Ponting admitted that he was befuddled with Harbhajan’s bag of tricks during that iconic series and he could never recover from that, falling to the ‘turbanator’ a record 10 times in Test cricket during his career.
“Well, Harbhajan is the obvious one. I had some unbelievable battles with him. And probably, more often than not, he had the better of me. Certainly, in Test cricket. I think he has got me out as many times as anybody in Test cricket.” Ricky Ponting told Ravichandran Ashwin.
“I remember that one series where, I guess that must be 2001, I think he got me out 5 times or every time I batted in that series. Yeah, it was almost like he had some sort of spell over me every time I walked out to bat in Test cricket,” he added.
Delving on his struggles against quality spin bowling, Ponting attributed that to the fact that he played all his cricket on non-spin conducive, hard and bouncy tracks of Australia, and it was only when he started playing at the elite level that he came up against top-quality spinners.
“When I look back now, growing up in Tasmania, playing on hard wickets my whole career, hardly facing any spin bowling at all until I got to the top-level. And when you get to the top-level when you play in Australia, you don’t really get much out of the wickets. So, as a batsman, you don’t really have a lot of fear about playing spin bowling on Australian wickets,” Ponting recalled.
”I didn’t trust my technique”- Ricky Ponting
He recalled that he had got a substantial score during the warm-up game ahead of the 1st Test of the 2001 Test series but when the Test series started, it was a completely different ball game, facing Harbhajan, who was at the height of his powers at the time.
“But coming here to India, I remember the first Test of that series was in Mumbai. I got runs in the tour game as well. I think I got a 80 or 90 or may be a 100 in the tour game. I felt really good coming into the game.” he recalled.
Ricky Ponting added that he hadn’t done much wrong when he was dismissed by Harbhajan for the first time but post that dismissal, he admitted that seeds of doubts had been sown in his mind and he was neither technically adapt nor mentally strong enough to counter Harbhajan.
“I go out to bat and just pushed forward to one, got an inside-edge on to the pad, caught at short leg and I was walking off thinking, I haven’t done much wrong there and I am out.” he said.
”And from that moment on, I didn’t trust my technique. So, I was trying to find a different way to play. And the next innings, I ran down the wicket first ball and got stumped. And then, I tried to sweep, got a bottom-edge on the first one, popped up to short leg. And that was just all on the back of not having enough experience or enough skill, if you like, to combat Indian conditions.”
“And against Harbhajan, that probably was the best series he ever had in his career. I think he took 30-odd wickets in three Tests. He was on top of his game and I wasn’t. And that was the start of him having a really good run against me.” he signed off.