Ponting's boss says he is second only to best

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Sydney, Feb 8 (UNI) After being severely criticised from various quarters, Ricky Ponting has received strong support from Cricket Australia (CA) Chief Executive James Sutherland who believes the captain is second only to legendary Don Bradman.

''In my view, he (Ponting) is as good a player as we have ever had, bar Bradman.

''And, as a leader, he has a great opportunity to stand up and I look forward to seeing him as someone who has influenced the game more than anyone bar Bradman,'' Sutherland was quoted as saying by The Australian.

There were suggestions from former greats that Ponting and Adam Gilchrist should be sacked from the team following the ill-tempered Test against India in Sydney. But Sutherland said CA will continue to support Ponting and his men adding that Australia is the only team in the world with a spirit of cricket code.

''We are absolutely supportive of our team and players,'' Sutherland said.

''They play hard but fair. We don't want our footy teams to play any differently. Why would we want our cricket team to play differently? ''When one wins as often as they do and are as successful as they are, you leave yourself open to criticism. Perhaps we expect more of them than we expect of anyone else, which is unfortunate,'' he added.

Sutherland continued his defense for the Test captain against the discontent of current and former players for reporting racial abuse in accordance with the International Cricket Council guidelines.

He said Ponting's reputation has grown from what it stood in the past. ''I think he has been unfairly tarnished,'' he said.

''His reputation in my mind is stronger than it was previously.

''It pays to understand his background. He came out of Launceston, basically at the age of 15 and has been a professional cricketer ever since.

''He is the sort of leader and captain that players absolutely love to play for. His team-mates are in awe of him as a player and as a captain and players would walk out over hot coals,'' he claimed.

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