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FEATURE / RICKY PONTING

Farewell Punter
As Ricky Ponting
bows out of
international
cricket we
take a look
at the four
key phases of
his remarkable
career. Plus
Nasser Hussain
salutes his
long-time rival.
PORTRAIT BY PHIL HILLYARD, NEWSPIX
32 / thecricketer.com

thecricketer.com / 33

FEATURE / RICKY PONTING

TEST RECORD

THE
EARLY
YEARS

v Bangladesh 4 matches, 260 runs @ 65.00
v England 35 matches, 2476 runs @ 44.21
v India 29 matches, 2555 runs @ 54.36
v New Zealand 17 matches, 1076 runs @ 53.80
v Pakistan 15 matches, 1537 runs @ 66.82
v South Africa 26 matches, 2132 runs @ 47.37
v Sri Lanka 14 matches, 975 runs @ 46.42
v West Indies 24 matches, 1977 runs @ 53.43
v Zimbabwe 3 matches, 290 runs @ 96.66

1974-1996
by Jarrod Kimber
ricky ponting’s last Ashes Test in

34 / thecricketer.com

Peaking: Ponting
during his 257 v India
at Melbourne in
2003-04; with the
World Cup in 2003
(below)

Rookie: Ponting
reaches 50 during
his debut innings of
96 against Sri Lanka
at Perth in 1995-96

PONTING USED
HIS PENT-UP
ANGER FOR
GREATNESS
BUT IT COULD
TURN DARK

pent-up anger for good and even
greatness but it could also turn dark.
Early in his life it spilled out into
bar-room brawling, later it was tales
of angry changing-room incidents. A
door breaks in Edgbaston or a TV in
India. Sometimes it was painted on
his face, the look of a man who wants
to break Duncan Fletcher’s jaw or the
stare of a man who wants to injure a
room fill of Indian journalists.
In Aussie Rules it is easy to get out
the rage. In captaincy the rage would
cloud his mind but, when Ponting got
a chance to use it in his batting,
it could bring out his very
best. Some of his innings
were giant middle fingers
at whoever he thought
deserved it. His last Ashes
innings in England after
being hit in the face was in

a monumental chase on a pitch that
had fully broken up. It was probably
as well as he batted in his twilight
years. He was decisive, focused and
simmering with rage. It was hard to
see how he would be dismissed until
Freddie ran him out for 66.
Ponting played his entire career
whacking guys first or looking over
his shoulder for people coming at
him. At his best he was a champion
batsman, at his worst a pantomime
villain captain. But he was always
true to where he came from. That
blood runs deep.
Jarrod Kimber is making
a documentary on
the future of Test
cricket. Visit www.
deathofagentlemanfilm.
com

THE
MATURING
YEARS
1996-2005
by Peter English

leaving adolescence behind

GETTY IMAGES (3), PATRICK EAGAR

England took blood from him.
Ponting had moved into silly midoff, helmetless, and a Matt Prior drive
bounced up off the turf and cracked
him in the face. Prior went over to
check if Ponting was OK. Ponting
shunned Prior’s niceties. He wanted
no sympathy and instead just spat
blood on to The Oval and grumpily
walked off for lunch as his team
limped towards an Ashes loss.
It was almost the perfect Ponting
moment, showing his toughness,
anger and hatred of losing.
Ponting grew up in the north of
Tasmania, a town called Launceston.
It is the sort of place you expect an
Australian sportsman to come from,
a regional centre that prides itself
on working-class values – tough and
friendly. While the NTCA ground has
produced David Boon and Ponting, it
is Aussie Rules that makes the locals
scream. And while Ponting seemed
destined to be a Test superstar, any
Australian familiar with the sport we
call footy could always see the Aussie
Rules attitude never really left him.
In rugby you see your opposition
come straight at you; in Aussie
Rules you can be legally taken down
from any angle at any time. The best
footy players play with a controlled
aggression and often expect to be hit.
It is a tough sport and in a cold place
like Launceston, you have to be hard
to survive. If someone had his head
down over the ball, your job was to
take him out; and, if he did the same
to you, it was all part of the game. You
just dusted yourself off and spat out
the blood.
Ponting brought the same attitude
to cricket. Ponting could use all that

often eases stress and, when
the pitfalls of Ricky Ponting’s
privileged international upbringing
disappeared, he was allowed a
fulfilling middle age. By the turn of
the millennium Ponting, then 25,
owned a World Cup medal and an
almost regular place in one of the
most formidable Test outfits – all
while operating well below optimum.
A defining failure came against

Harbhajan Singh in India in 2001,
when Ponting wobbled 17 runs in
three Tests, and there were briefly
doubts over his long-term value.
Those disappeared at Leeds during
an Ashes double of 144 and 72 that
showed all the sparkle and more. The
legend was now quickly being made.
Unshackled from the unique
constraints of his youth, he achieved
not just top-level consistency but
the type of sustained excellence that
earned mentions towards the end
of lists involving Lara, Tendulkar
and Steve Waugh. And he did
it from the most demanding
position. Instead of being
dropped after that Indian spin
Australia promoted him to No.3
for the 2001 Ashes, a position he
camped at for the next decade.
“Moving up to three gave me more

TEST STATS

168 Tests; 13,378
runs; highest score
257; average 51.85;
100s 41; 50s 62

responsibility,” he said. Three times
over the next four years he registered
more than 1,000 runs in a calendar
campaign. Double-hundreds arrived
in threes in 2003, including backto-back efforts against India. After
Ponting’s career-best 257 against
India at the MCG, Waugh praised
him as “the complete package”. There
were no arguments once his numbers
were presented or when his name
glowed on dressing-room honours
boards across the globe.
In 54 Tests from his Headingley
renaissance to the end of 2005,
Ponting averaged 68.83 and raised
19 centuries. Tellingly only one of
those came against Bangladesh or
Zimbabwe. A great was at his best
against the best. Greg Chappell, like
Ponting another contender as Don
Bradman’s understudy, felt Ponting
would have been a superstar in any
era. “I would love to have had the
ability to bat like he does,” he said.
Like Chappell Ponting experienced
some difficulties as captain but there
were no issues in maintaining his
batting output. He replaced Waugh
for ODIs in the lead-up to the 2003
World Cup, where he settled the
final single-handed. India were
helpless against a combination of
grace and power. Ponting splashed
140, including eight sixes, across the
Wanderers. A year later he was Test
captain too, struggling at times with
strategy but rarely failing with the
bat. The journey from wonder boy to
run-making super man was
almost complete.
Peter English is the
former Australia
editor of Cricinfo.com
thecricketer.com / 35

FEATURE / RICKY PONTING

Power and glory: Ponting hooks
Tudor at Headingley in 2001 (left);
running out to bat in his last Test,
at Perth in December 2012 (below)

THE
BRADMAN
YEARS

THE
TWILIGHT
YEARS

it was the wound that left a

the game had a few final lessons

permanent scar, the failure that
created an obsession. Australia’s
2005 Ashes loss drove Ricky Ponting
to another level.
His pain collided with his pomp to
create one of the most destructive
batsmen in the world between the
2005 and 2009 Ashes.
As a nation Australia was shocked
when Michael Vaughan’s team won in
’05. Ponting was horrified. Australia
did not lose Ashes series. It was a
vague memory from primary school
and now the Australian captain was
approaching 31.
Everyone paid. He scored a
Bradmanesque 10 hundreds in the 13
Tests that followed the 2005 Ashes,
with two in the same Test on three
occasions. Between the 2005 and
2009 Ashes only Kevin Pietersen
made more centuries – one more with
15 – but he played nine more Tests.
The 2006-07 Ashes was the high
point of Ponting’s career in every
way. He set himself for revenge,
for redemption, and pounced in
the opening innings of the series
at Brisbane with 196, toying with
England’s bowlers. Ponting was in
such control that it appeared he was
about to burst from cruise control
into overdrive and begin smashing
the ball to all parts. 
But this was the older, wiser
Ponting of almost a decade in the
game who had learned that, if you
were in, cash in. He caressed the ball
as much as caned it, eased it into the
gaps, drove with effortless control,
until England’s attack simply had no
idea how or where to bowl at him.
Then Ponting did it again during
the next Test at Adelaide, scoring 142.

for its best student. It had repaid
his devotion generously in the early
years but it had some harsh things to
teach him before he walked out the
doors.
The defeats started to come more
regularly in later years, victories
thinning like the hairs on a balding
man’s head. Ricky Ponting raged at
first, then met the losses with the
same even stare he had met every
challenge in his career.
In 2005, his most productive year
in the game, he suffered the shock
of losing the Ashes for the first time.
At Old Trafford he had grabbed the
machine gun himself, summoned all
his powers to score 156 and ensure
the draw. He was the last man to go
down in that fight.
When the Ashes defeats were in
successive series the notable thing
was his acceptance; in 2010-11, when
he could not make a run, he did not
deceive himself or his audience. He
was as honest, unblinking and hard
as he had ever been in victory.
World Cups had always been kind,
his record as a captain and player
defied belief, but in the last of those
the rot took hold too. In the fading
light of what was to be the last of his
46 innings in the tournament he took
on India at Ahmedabad and cracked
a century for old times’ sake, but it
was not enough. For the first time in
four campaigns Australia were out
before the trophy had been handed
to them.
Ricky Ponting had led his various
sides to 34 successive victories in
three previous successful World Cup
campaigns. Failure in the last was no
fault of his.

2005-2009
by Malcolm Conn

36 / thecricketer.com

2009-2012
by Peter Lalor

THE
ENGLISH
VIEW

NUMBERS

56.97 Test average at home; it was 45.81 away
26.48 Test average in India, from 14 Tests
257 Highest Test score, v India at MCG, 2003-04
61.39 His average in the first innings of a Test
(52.92 in 2nd, 38.54 in 3rd, 50.41 in 4th)
59.46 Test average in victories (32.83 in losses)
30 ODI centuries, 22 when he was captain
164 Highest ODI score, from 105 balls, v South Africa
at Jo’burg in 2006

It lifted his era average to 90 and his
overall career average briefly touched
60. England lost the unlosable Test on
the way to a 5-0 whitewash which put
things to rights.
Whatever people might have said
about Ponting’s captaincy, they could
not take this away from him. He
might have been the first in almost
two decades to lose the Ashes, 2-1,
with England winning the two Tests

that Glenn McGrath did not play
because of injury, but flogging the
Poms 5-0 was something special.
It greatly enhanced an already
impressive captaincy record that few
appeared to notice.
During that golden era Ponting won
27 of his 38 Tests as captain, losing
six and drawing five. The next best
was South Africa’s Graeme Smith,
with 20 wins from the same number
of Tests. But things had already
begun to turn. Smith’s team won
South Africa’s first series in Australia
during 2008-09.
Individually and collectively the
slide had begun from one of cricket’s
highest peaks but what a view it had
been from the top.
 
Malcolm Conn is chief cricket writer
at Australia’s News Ltd

GRAHAM MORRIS (2), PATRICK EAGAR (2), GETTY IMAGES

Merciless: Ponting
at Brisbane in 200607 (above); and at
Perth after winning
back the Ashes
(right)

Nasser Hussain, who as England captain
was on the receiving end of three Ricky
Ponting centuries, salutes his old foe.

ricky ponting was the most human of the four great batsmen of
his era. Brian Lara was a genius, Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques
Kallis have been more machine-like, but Ponting was just a downto-earth Aussie hero.
He had frailties and failings, including some public drink issues,
and on the field he showed the sort of raw emotion that Tendulkar
in particular would never display - whether it was arguing with
umpires or shouting at Duncan Fletcher on the balcony at Trent
Bridge. I respect him even more for those attributes.
 His technique was not spot on all the time but he had one of
the best hand-eye co-ordinations I have seen. I remember guys
like Angus Fraser, Andrew Caddick and Alex Tudor bowling their
natural lengths and being pulled and hooked off the front foot
for six and four. All they could do was look at me and say, ‘Well, I
usually get people out from that length.’ And if they adjusted to go
a bit fuller, they would get smashed down the ground instead.
 He was the best batsman in the best team of his era and that
takes some doing. Sometimes you can hide a little in a great team
and let other people get the runs. But he would strap on the pads
at No.3 and always do the hard yards. He enjoyed the competition
more than anything. He was never in it for personal milestones or
to look good. He just enjoyed the heat of the battle and in that he
was an absolute great of the game.

The end crept up on him in the
same way vulnerability crept up on
the once mighty Australians. The
back-to-back Ashes home defeat and
the World Cup exit saw him stand
down as captain, a move designed to
clear the path for his successor.
Unencumbered, he revelled in his
role as team man without title, his
energy in fielding and nets sessions
still burned brighter than all the rest,
his love of the game infectious.
And he rose one more time. Having
failed to beat the old enemy he
settled some scores with the new
one. Although it was not obvious at
the time, India’s 2011-12 visit was
Ponting’s lap of honour. A century
at the SCG and a double at Adelaide
were an encore, a brief recap of past
glories before the exit.
Back in South Australia 12 months
on, after a series of uncertain shots,
he admitted the game had taught him
one last lesson. The cocksuredness of
youth was gone and a “tentativeness”
had crept in. Bertrand Russell said
only fools and fanatics are certain.
Ponting was neither and understood
it was time to go.
Peter Lalor is cricket correspondent
for The Australian
thecricketer.com / 37


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