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Ponting’s solution for cricket’s ‘biggest challenge’

“There are certain countries I think around the world that can afford to probably do that for a series here and there. But there are a lot of countries that can’t afford to do it. South Africa are not playing a lot of Test cricket the next couple of years, and they’d be one of the countries I’d be most worried about as far as their Test cricket is concerned, especially after what I saw here last summer.

“To try to grow the game there when they’re not playing much [Test cricket] is going to be difficult. The flipside of that is what we saw with the West Indies in Brisbane in that last Test. Hopefully that has the reverse effect where one performance or one Test match can actually reinvigorate the way the Test match game is looked at in the Caribbean.”

Still arguably the biggest name in Australian cricket, Ponting’s signature for Major League Cricket on a two-year deal is akin to Shane Warne’s recruitment by the Melbourne Stars in the early days of Big Bash League, adding instant credibility and star power to the franchise league as it enters its second season.

The likes of Steve Smith and Travis Head have been mentioned as possible signings for the Freedom, for an event that will follow closely on the heels of the T20 World Cup to be played in the USA and the Caribbean in June.

Since his retirement, Ponting has held a range of coaching roles in the IPL, and has served as overseer of the Hobart Hurricanes BBL program, alongside commentary duties. He also consulted as a coach and mentor for the Australian men’s team on various occasions, most recently during the 2019 ODI World Cup.

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“My job now, with the relationships I’ve had with some of these guys, hopefully those relationships and the right amount of money is enough to bring them to the Freedom,” Ponting said.

“I think there’s huge potential, huge growth possibilities in the US, even with the IPL ownership model the way it is at the moment, I just think it’s got potential to become huge and I want to be a part of that journey along the way.”

Cricket NSW took up a high-performance partnership role with the Freedom last year, an alliance that offers a useful commercial upside for the state association while also keeping it clued into the rapidly-growing realm of franchise leagues.

Cricket Victoria has a similar tie-in with the San Francisco Unicorns, while other teams have Indian Premier League links – including to Ponting’s Delhi Capitals.

“When I was first approached, the first thing I did was actually get on the phone to Delhi and see if they had any issue with it,” Ponting said. “They’re a small shareholder in one of the other teams, but they were fine. They had no issue with me at all, which is great.”

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