The false confidence that a CBA Series victory against an injured and disinterested England gave Australia have done no favours to the returning Captain. From those fairly meaningless seven lopsided games, Ponting would have gained a few positives:
1. The electric form of a resurgent Brett Lee
2. A slow but noticeable journey by Michael Clark to something approaching form
3. The Midnight Oil Man, Shane Watson and his power and passion
Of the rest, the best that can be said was they showed glimpses. Now, arriving in India without his go-to man, Michael Hussey and with no Marsh or Hauritz to reliably do what they, Ponting would have been looking for some to rise up and roar their terrible roars and gnash their terrible teeth. The injury to Hauritz is one of life's wonderful ironies after he was fit, ready and taking the Sheffield Shield before him all summer, only to be ignored by inept selection which must have involved Ponting's input.
Now, after two warm up games they have twice been hit by Bangalore torpedoes, scuppering there preparation and raising question marks over progression beyond the group stage. Ponting is left with his positives list intact, although the shine waned a little on Watson during his four ball duck to Dale Steyn, a man who learns from information supplied and trapped The Big Blond in front of his castle again (that's 15% in ODI's, 34% in Tests and even 26% in Twenty20). Of course, the big bonus has been Ponting's own form and the easy return to international cricket away from his home press. Clark's journey has him still heading in the right direction and Lee still looks to be the bowling ace in the hole.
So far, there's not much else to talk about. Haddin failed & Paine didn't - hmmm. Johnson has been as ordinary as his summer form suggested he would be. He'll probably get a bag against lesser lights impressed by his snarl and tough words and lick of pace but the South Africans dismissed him last night at seven an over and he didn't trouble the Indians. David Hussey has looked confused by spin and White can't find the right mix of aggression and defence and has been lacking a big score for a long time in one-dayers. Krejza has at least looked like he was trying to take wickets.
The performance against India had the undeniable plus that Australia bowled India out inside 45 overs but after Watson, Paine and Ponting got Australia to a dominant position at 1-118, their game folded like one of those card tables your parents used to show the slides from in the 1960's. It was a completely inept batting performance against some very testing spin bowling, but seriously, what did the Australian batting line up expect in the home of mystic art?
The performance against South Africa was far worse. Ponting and Clarke had added 122 after a 2-6 start but from 2-128, that card table was soon stacked away again and had it not been for some chirpy batting in the tail, Australia would not have made 200. What followed was a disaster, as the bowlers failed to take a wicket, the du Plessis run out and the retirements of Smith and Amla making up the three wickets which fell. On the same pitch where Dale Steyn's eight overs returned 3-21, the Australian quicks - Tait, Lee & Johnson - went at five and a half an over as the South African openers added 131. Krejza at least earned respect.
There is much to do before Australia's first fixture in the World Cup proper and not all the troops Ponting needs to do it with. The apparent ease of that first game against Zimbabwe on Monday is not an aid to his winning endeavour. The Australian's group is a tough won and not one in which any game can be lost. There are many testing points for Australia and so far, they haven't looked overly studious.