Ben Stokes made a comeback to the international circuit after a long layoff from cricket but hasn't looked the part so far in the series. His diminishing returns both with bat and ball have reflected in England's fortunes in the ongoing Ashes as the side found themselves trailing 2-0.
Giving his two cents on the English talisman, former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting stated that the Durban all-rounder hasn't looked like the "physically aggressive" presence that opposition teams have feared due to his "ultra-defensive approach" in the ongoing Ashes series. Ponting also slammed England skipper Joe Root, Stokes, and Jos Buttler for the manner of their dismissals in the first innings of the Boxing Day Test which the two-time World Cup-winning captain believes was "inexcusable".
"He's looked ultra-defensive. He hasn't looked like the big, physically aggressive presence at the crease that opposition teams have feared to bowl to in other series. You can understand why the batting conditions haven't been easy in any game and he's coming up against some good bowlers," Ponting told 'cricket.com.au'.
Ponting reckons that Stokes must deviate from the conservative approach to help the struggling tourists. "But I think if you just sit back and wait, and don't put pressure on great bowlers, they're going to get you out. We always used to say in teams that I played in that the better the bowler, the more risks you had to take as a batter, because you simply don't get bad balls. You have got to find a way to jump on anything that's a little bit bad, rotate the strike as much as you can."
Heading into the third Test, England shuffled their top order, bringing in Zac Crawley and Jonny Bairstow in place of Ollie Pope and Rory Burns. But after being put in to bat on day one in the Boxing Day Test the tourists were bowled out for just 185. Ponting feels the insipid performance by fellow England batters has put more pressure on Stokes.
"He's probably going into the game knowing that it's so important that he scores runs in that number five slot that he might be trying a little bit too hard," said Ponting.
"The bottom line with it is that technically he might be their second-best player, so you can't keep pushing him down the list when you're batting guys with inferior techniques ahead of him. And if you look at everyone outside of Joe Root then I would say that technically he is their second-best player."
Ponting was sharp in his criticism of Stokes, Root and Buttler, adding that the senior players need to rise to the occasion.
"(It was) inexcusable for three of your more senior players, the players that they needed to stand up on the back of what we believe were some pretty stern discussions after the Adelaide game. If your leaders aren't going to do it, then you can't expect the younger guys to get the job done.
"The young guys are going to learn from the senior players and when the senior players are setting examples like that, you can understand why some of the younger guys are making mistakes as well," he pointed out.