Ricky Ponting the Nathan Rees of Cricket

| September 16, 2009

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu’s tells us that “without a general, the army is totally useless.”

This old adage has never been more pertinent than when applied to the current NSW Labor government and Australian cricket team. They are both so weakly led.Whether in politics or cricket, without a good leader, you lose battles.  

In this respect, Australia’s cricket captain, Ricky Ponting, and the NSW premier, Nathan Rees, have a lot in common. They are both talented individuals, burdened by the fact that neither of them can lead.
Ponting is one of the greatest batsmen Australia has ever had. Likewise, Rees was one of Australia’s premier garbage collectors. Just as Ponting was not able to live up to the Waugh legacy, Rees has not lived up to the Carr legacy.  
At this year’s Ashes, Australia had an able cricket team and it was off to a good start at Cardiff. Then Andrew Strauss’ men beat us.
Actually, we beat ourselves. Ponting made the wrong calls on the bowlers and England hung on. It set the tone for the series. The statistics suggest we should have won the series. After all, Australia had the three greatest wicket-takers of the series and scored seven hundreds to England’s one. We still lost, making Ponting the first Australian captain to lose the Ashes twice in England.
The NSW government is also plagued by a lack of leadership.
Nathan Rees is unable to keep his party disciplined, despite warnings of sackings to fellow MPs, with rumours of challenges and calls for him to step down as premier. Despite the unpopularity of the state Labor government in general, Rees’ popularity is polling even lower.
As Shane Easson*, advisor to the NSW ALP on electoral matters and a former chief of staff to a former premier, Barrie Unsworth, has pointed out; the Unsworth government lost the 1988 election because they were an old government, unable to communicate with the people, and were too Sydney-centric. “Rees is making the same mistakes,” says Easson.
This critique may seem unfair when compared to their opponents. Barry O’Farrell, leader of the NSW Liberal Party, has been very unclear on where he stands on policy issues; his major draw card is simple: that he is not Nathan Rees. In fact, he can let the Government destroy itself. That’s how poorly generalled the NSW ALP Government is.
The only issues O’Farrell has taken a stand on were electricity privatisation and the publication of league tables for schools, both contrary to Liberal principles, but designed to be blindly populist and to split the Labor side. That’s clever tactics.  
Rees took up the premiership following the embarrassing demise of Morris Iemma over the party’s disagreement over electricity privatisation. This led to Bill Shorten, Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, to describe NSW as the “Port Moresby of Australian politics”. Rees then declared that the“soap opera was over.” Yet it  continues.   
Without bowlers Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, Ponting’s weaknesses as leader became more evident.
With absence of talented Ministers like Andrew Refshauge, John Aquilina, and arguably even Frank Sartor, Labor’s new broom looks threadbare. The resignation of John Della-Bosca, the former NSW health minister who reformed the state’s health system and applied his brains to overall Government policy, will allow the weaknesses of Premier Rees to shine through even more so.  
Upon losing the 2009 Ashes, Ponting took full responsibility for the loss and received widespread praise in England for his attitude. The Independent wrote of his departure, “Thank you for reminding us that there is a way of losing that can pinpoint the glory of sport just as acutely as winning.”
When Rees loses the 2011 election, as he most certainly will, one guesses that he too will take the loss gracefully.
Nice guys finish last.
Louise Easson is a journalist for Web Diary and Sydney University publications, Honi Soit and The Bull, where she writes on political and cultural happenings within Australia and the world. She has been involved in the world of politics from a young age and knows party leadership when she sees it. Louise is completing a Master of Media Practice at the University of Sydney. Her interests include politics, travel, and sport.
* Disclosure: Shane Easson is the author’s Uncle


  1. Some Dude

    September 19, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Cricket team

     If things are as bad for the NSW ALP as some reports are saying we could very easily have a labor opposition the size of a cricket team after the next election. 

    It’s very unfortunate for the state of NSW that Barry O’Farrell and the libs are simply  not up to the task of managing major structural problems that need urgent but well executed reform.

    The future of nsw looks no less bleak under the libs. Our state is being hit for six.

    Change we can’t believe in.