Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Perth November 29, 2012

Among weights machines and leaky pipes

The WACA gym setting for Ricky Ponting's retirement announcement was far from pretty but somehow fitting

Windowless and feeling like a basement, the WACA gym is not the most salubrious room in Australian cricket.

It is tucked away on the ground floor of the Lillee-Marsh Stand, and during Test matches becomes a makeshift press conference venue, weights and machines pushed to the sides and chairs lined up in the middle of the room. During a press conference last year, a cameraman had to shift his lighting equipment to avoid damage from a leaky pipe that runs along the ceiling carrying goodness knows what.

In these surrounds Ricky Ponting announced his decision to retire from Test cricket. Somehow, it felt appropriate. Ponting has spent more than two decades in rooms like this, working on his fitness, preparing for battle. Ponting's career has not been about looking pretty, although his pulls and straight drives are among the finest sights in cricket. It has been about getting down to business, wherever, however required. From Harare to Peshawar, from Georgetown to Guwahati. From Perth in 1995 to Perth in 2012.

So he got down to business here as well. Ponting walked into the gym holding the hand of his young daughter Emmy, followed by wife Rianna holding their younger daughter Matisse. His family filed off and sat down at the front of a packed room. Ponting's team-mates were already present, standing at the back of the room behind the bank of television cameras, waiting to hear Ponting tell the world what he had told them before training.

For nearly an hour before Ponting arrived, murmurs had been spreading. Ostensibly, the collection of journalists had gathered for captain Michael Clarke's pre-match press conference. But one by one, the reporters started to make or take calls, sidling out of the room to confirm the rumour that was rapidly spreading. Twitter began to rumble as the news emerged. It was known that Ponting had been seriously considering his future after the Adelaide Test, but not that he had made a decision.

After a matter-of-fact confirmation that the Perth Test would be his last, Ponting asked that he not be pressed to reflect on his career, his highs and lows, the great players he had played with and against. It was typical of Ponting that he wanted the focus to remain on the upcoming Test, inasmuch as that was possible. A battle for the No.1 Test ranking. A match that Ponting said he wanted to win more than any other game he has ever played.

Ponting had been emotional when he told his team-mates of his decision earlier in the day; naturally, so were they. But during his public announcement, there were no tears. All his face betrayed was a disappointment that in his own mind he was no longer good enough to play Test cricket. "I know I've given cricket my all," he said with a look of resignation. "It's been life for 20 years. Not much more I can give."

The display of emotion was left to Clarke, who had the task of facing the press after Ponting had left the room with his family - or "my new team", as he had described his wife and daughters - to a standing ovation from all who were present. Clarke was asked how the team had responded when Ponting had told them of his decision before training.

"The boys are obviously hurting at the moment," Clarke said. "He's been an amazing player for a long time."

That was as much as Clarke could get out. His chin started to wobble, he fell silent and looked down at the desk in front of him. Ponting had been the one constant in the Australian team since Clarke debuted in 2004. Though they took different approaches to captaincy, there was no question Ponting had been a significant mentor to Clarke over the years. And now he was leaving. It was like a death in the family.

The next question asked of Clarke related to Nathan Lyon's chances of playing the Test. The focus had returned to the match at hand. Just as Ponting wanted.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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