It had to happen this, Ponting finally calling it quits, but I find myself sad all the same. For much of his career Ponting has been a polarising figure, and to this day I know people who can’t stomach him. Not so me. He’s one of my favourite players ever. I loved him for his hard-nosed Aussie competitiveness, married to aggressive, often devastating, strokeplay.
To me Ponting epitomises many things about Australian cricket, in much the same way that his predecessor as captain, Steve Waugh, did. The reverence to the baggy green and all it represented, the devotion to team, the selfless drive for success, and the steely, occasionally ruthless, ambition.
Ponting goes down as one of the greatest Australian cricketers of all time, an automatic entry into a best ever XI, and probably our best batsman since Bradman.
In an era of great batsmen I think he was just about the best. That will be controversial when you consider the likes of Tendulkar, the somewhat underrated Lara, Kallis and so on. Each have their different attributes, different strengths, different reasons to elevate them to number one.
I’ve nominated Ponting for several reasons. For a start he became a better player as captain, and led from the front. Both Tendulkar and Lara had stints as captain, and failed. Like Kallis they were happy to sit back in the team. He also batted in the most important spot in the order at number 3, unlike the man most will nominate above him (for the record I would have Tendulkar last of this list – heresy, I know).
Only Lara of those three could compare to Ponting in terms of strokeplay and scoring rate. On their day both were devastating matchwinners, capable of taking the game away from the opposition in a session of blistering batting. Only Lara also, has the big inning record comparable to Ponting.
In terms of winningest innings I would suspect that Ponting is way out in front of the others also. He played more important innings, innings that won matches, or innings that needed to be made, than the others. This is another area Tendulkar trails.
As an all-round cricketer Kallis is the leader because of his bowling, but Ponting comes next. There’s his capaincy of course, and the leadership that comes with that – and also his fielding. Ponting is/was one of the great fielders of the era. Fantastic in the outfield, agile and alert, he also jhad the safest hands since Mark Waugh. He holds the Australian record for both runs made and catches taken.
In the end it’s moot, and good for robust conversation over a few beers. I’ll miss Punter, the familiar frayed cap, the squinting, alert eyes, the hair-trigger reflexes and the combative nature. I hope he goes out big; and I hope we continue to see him still, in one way or another.