The cricket world will remember Ricky Ponting as a fine batsman, one of the very best produced by Australia and an exemplary captain, who led Australia to victory in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups.
Ponting should also be remembered as an enduring cricketing warrior of his time. He took victory and defeat; praise and humiliation, with the kind of balance which a gymnast would be proud of.
There was never any doubt about Ponting’s talent ever since former Australia stars Rod Marsh and Ian Chappell saw the teenaged Tasmanian and felt he was was destined to wear the baggy green someday. However, he was temperamental and he paid the price when he was thrown out of a Kolkata nightclub in 1998.
To his eternal credit, Ponting mellowed down and the Australian selectors didn’t have any hesitation in naming him Steve Waugh’s replacement as Test captain in 2003-04.
Ponting’s captaincy was a mixed bag considering he lost three Ashes series (2005, 2009 and 2010-11) and couldn’t witness a Test series win in India (he was injured when Adam Gilchrist won in 2004-05).
At the same time, he didn’t get enough credit for regaining the Ashes in 2006-07 when they beat England 5-0. Ponting led from the front — right from his 196 in his first Test as captain after surrendering the urn to the old enemy in 2005 — to a series-ending average of 82.29.
Probably, Ponting’s most challenging time as captain was during the Monkeygate controversy which ate into a great Test match played out by Australia and India in early 2008. Ponting’s sportsman spirit was questioned and late cricket writer Peter Roebuck didn’t exactly have the whole of Australia disagreeing to his view that Ponting must be sacked.
He stayed, slogged and soldiered on. Overall, he played the game fairly, but didn’t back off when he needed to get his hands dirty. Ponting will not go down as an angel, but he could get the Gods to sit up and take notice as he pierced every corner of the field.