When former teammates Ricky Ponting and Justin Langer met for a meal in Sydney little did they know that Australia were set to break an unwanted record that stood for over thirty years.
For the first time since 1988, Australia were forced to follow-on in a home Test match when Indian captain Virat Kohli sent them into bat a second time in the fourth and final match of the series in Sydney.
Despite the immense pressure of expectations and the noise regarding team selections since the ball-tampering crisis, former captain Ponting believes Langer is the right person to be in charge of the Australian side.
“I had dinner with him last night, just to be a bit of a sounding board for him and give him a bit of support," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
“It’s a tough time - the team aren’t playing well, the media are pretty hard on all the players and the coaching staff.
“But one thing I’ve said since he took the job is that you could not find a better person in the world to be in charge of the Australian cricket team right now.
“There might be other opinions out there about that, but I know Justin well.
“I’m speaking to the players a lot, they’re all happy with the environment being created.
“They’re working hard, and so far they haven’t got the results but I think where we’ve seen Australian cricket over the last seven or eight months, things weren’t going to change and turn around immediately.
“But I know they’re on the right path, and certainly that’s what all the players are saying."
Ponting agrees that the role of Australian coach involves great scrutiny and takes a big toll on the individual, especially when the team isn’t doing well.
However Ponting, who has played and worked closely alongside Langer, says the burden is not crushing him, even if there are days when it must overwhelming.
“Any time you’re part of the Australian cricket team, you want to want to have success and success is almost demanded of you if you’re a player or a coach," Ponting said today.
“That hasn’t come quite as regularly as the players or Justin would have liked.
“No doubt it’s taking its toll, but not in a negative way whatsoever.
“He’s doing his job brilliantly well - he’s passionate about it, and wants to be the best coach Australia’s ever had.
“He won’t leave any stone unturned to give himself the best chance to do that.
“I think he would have known what he was getting himself into when he took the job.
“Having been a bloke who played 100-odd Tests and worked with teams that I played in as a batting coach, I think he was pretty aware of what would be coming.
“And then obviously taking over when (banned duo Steve) Smith and (David) Warner both went out together, I think his challenges grew even more as a result of that.
“They just haven’t played a level of cricket that he would have expected, and I’m sure that the players haven’t played the way they would have wanted to either as yet.
“That’s where I think tomorrow becomes so important.
“There’s still a lot to gain for the individual players and this team out of the last day of this contest.
“As a batsman, you’ve got to take every run that you can possibly get because they don’t come around that easily, as our batsmen have seen throughout this series.
“And just a bit of pride in team performance can sometimes go a long way."
Ponting referred to a moment from the fourth day of the SCG Test itself to make his point.
The former captain was baffled by Nathan Lyon’s decision to not review an lbw decision when they had two wickets in hand and two reviews to use, especially with the Test on the line. According to Ponting that lapse is inexcusable.
Ponting also had no issue with internal criticism levelled at the team by bowling coach David Saker as well as Langer after the opening day of the game, but said that the details should not have been made public.
“One thing I know about Justin is that he’s not shy to have a pretty open and honest conversation with anybody, and that’s what you expect from a coach," Ponting said.
“It’s no good patting people on the back day-in, day-out when they’re not doing things you’re expected to do.
“I’ve been around the team a bit the last 12 months, I’ve seen David Saker do the same thing and if I was a player and I was playing like this team is playing now, I’d expect a bit of a kick in the pants every now and then as well.
“The disappointing thing for me is that it’s spoken about publicly
“Those things don’t need to be spoken about publicly, they can stay within the four walls of the dressing room.
“Hopefully everyone that was involved in that meeting has learnt a bit from it and they can be better as a result."