Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Perth, 4th day December 3, 2012

At the end, Ponting returns to roots


For a moment, Ricky Ponting was a kid again. As he sat in the WACA gym and spoke one last time as a Test cricketer, the emotion finally got the better of him. Ponting, perhaps the toughest competitor of his cricketing generation, fought back tears as he thanked his family for all of their sacrifices. His wife Rianna was there with his daughters Emmy and Matisse. His parents, Graeme and Lorraine, were there too. It was a rare glimpse of the human side of one of sport's hardest men.

To understand Ponting, you have to understand his roots. Australia's most prolific run scorer was raised in working-class northern Tasmania and when he was nine or ten, he used to ride his BMX all around Launceston and the surrounding areas to watch the Mowbray Cricket Club play. He would sit in the change-rooms, rummage through the players' bags when they were on the field and try on their gloves, hold their bats. He helped run the scoreboard at the NTCA ground when Tasmania played there, for a few dollars a day.

At 11, Ponting was playing third-grade cricket with his father; when he became a first-class player, he financed new club-rooms with his first sponsorship payment. He learnt the value of the baggy green when his uncle Greg Campbell, Lorraine's brother and also a Mowbray player, played Test cricket briefly in the late 1980s. Ponting now lives in Sydney but has never changed clubs; if he was to play a club match again it would be for Mowbray.

Ponting walked off the WACA on Monday afternoon having equalled Steve Waugh's record of 168 Test appearances. Nobody has been part of more victories than Ponting. He has played 560 international matches in 15 countries around the world, or 24 if the individual nations that make up the West Indies are taken into consideration. As Ponting sat back and for the first time reflected on his 17-year international career, he became emotional when he considered where it all started.

"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the opportunities I was given by them at an early age," Ponting said of his parents. A cough, as he held back the tears. "It's getting a bit harder". Sniff. "The Mowbray Cricket Club, if they see me up here like this at the moment they'll be all over me. That's the place I learnt the game and the person I am was moulded from my background and my upbringing. What you've seen over 17 years is a result of my early days at the Mowbray Cricket Club. Thanks to the boys back there."

Tough as they make them in Mowbray, there wouldn't have been a dry eye there either. Ponting still keeps a close eye on his club's scores. In fact, he keeps a close eye on everything related to the world of cricket. The kid who sat in the change-rooms and listened to the first-grade players tell stories about the match they'd just played still exists. That's what will make retirement so difficult for Ponting. Cricket has been his life.

It is no surprise that he will play on for Tasmania this season, like a junkie being weaned off slowly. From Perth, he will fly to Tasmania to start training for the Hobart Hurricanes. The Big Bash League starts later this week and Ponting will be part of it. Always renowned as a realist, the dreamer in Ponting came through when he considered watching Australia's next Test, against Sri Lanka in Hobart, and joked about warming up with the Test players and earning a late call-up.

"You ask the boys in the dressing room, they reckon I don't miss a ball that's bowled anywhere around the world," he said. "Of course I'll keep an eye on it because I'll miss not being out there. I'll be interested to see who comes in and slots into the No.4 spot and I'll be interested to see what the bowling attack looks like for Hobart.

"The way it works out I'll probably be down there anyway. I've got some training to do for the Hurricanes, leading up to that game, so I'll probably be in Hobart just before that. Who knows, I might even be around for the first day of the game. If I am, I might even join in the warm-up with the boys and see if there's just one more chance!"

There's that kid in the change-rooms again. Pick me! Let me play!

But for all of his cricket passion, Ponting knew the time was right to walk away from the international game. His scores over the past few weeks have confirmed it. Not that he had given up hope of ending with a match-winning hundred.

"I had a bit more of a fairytale ending in my own eyes than what's happened this week," Ponting said. Just then, the pipes in the WACA gym began to squeal, almost drowning out his voice. "Still things are going badly for me here as well! It's been one of those weeks."

Apart from when discussing his family, Ponting was relaxed in retirement. He joked about the standing ovation he had received, and the one given to his nightwatchman Nathan Lyon on the first day. He thanked the media for promoting the game and held no grudges about the criticism levelled on him in recent times. He finished with a brief thought about his legacy.

"Hopefully my impact and input on Australian cricket has left something behind. Thank you."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rony on December 6, 2012, 15:50 GMT

    The golden period of his carrier was from the beginning of 2002 to till the end of 2007 world cup.Nobody dominated World cricket such a long time in the way Ponting did in these years.Of course his Splendid touch decreased from 2008 onwards and in the last two years he lost his class a lot in accordance with his own standards.Nevertheless this will not cut down his magnitude a little bit because of his overall awesome attainments Good Bye and Farewell to Ricky Ponting the greatest Batsmen and Cricket Player ever.This is the End of a Great Era of Cricket.

  • Rony on December 6, 2012, 15:48 GMT

    Another aspect of ponting's brilliance as a cricketer is his wonderful captaincy.There were so many top batsmen,but none of them comes anywhere near Ponting in terms of captaincy.He is unique because nobody have enjoyed Success like him.He is part of hundred test wins and involved in Hat-trick World cup wins,twice as a captain.Nobody may not be able to repeat this at all.Ponting scores heavily here when compare with other great batsmen and players.

  • Rony on December 6, 2012, 15:46 GMT

    A distinct feature of his batting is that he always scored some critical innings in Big matches. I can't forget some of his ODI innings. 124* vs Pakistan in 1998 while chasing 315 at Lahore when Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq are in full flow and young Shoib Akhtar also in the team. 92 vs South Africa in 2002 when chasing 326 at Port Elizabeth. 140* vs India at Johannesburg in the 2003 World Cup Final. 164 vs South Africa in 2006 at Johannesburg during the historic match in which an Aggregate of 872 runs scored. These are some outstanding innings which shows the Sheer Quality of Ponting's Batting.He also had played some exceptional innings in Test Matches but since i follows ODI with more enthusiasm,these are the innings that stood in my memory.

  • Rony on December 6, 2012, 15:42 GMT

    My Favourite cricketer have retired.Ricky Ponting is the most Successful and Outstanding Cricketer ever.A real character in the cricket field,he is the best in the business.I would rate him above all in the Top Echelon of Cricketers ever played the game.Many may disagree with these if they started compare with other players based on personal records and other things.What really matters for a Cricketer is to perform in difficult and challenging conditions and how he can generate that performance into team win,win in remarkable Occasions like world cup and win against first class opponents.Ponting is very dominant in this matter.Of course he is blessed with some special teammates during most of his carrier,That's his fortune.His greatness cannot be diminished by this.

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2012, 14:10 GMT

    Any sport is all about mind games. If your mind is steady and sharp you win else you lose. I don't see a guy like PUNTER will be seen in future. I watched cricket when PUNTER,LARA, WAUGH's, WALSH, AMBROSE, WASIM AKRAM, WAQAR YOUNIS, SACHIN, DRAVID, GILLY, KALLIS and many others played...Future might not see these kind of players...

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2012, 8:21 GMT

    you will never retire for our heart <3 PUNTER <3

  • Amjad on December 4, 2012, 13:18 GMT

    One less bully and the world is a better place already!

  • paul on December 4, 2012, 13:06 GMT

    Lara first to finish years ago - he too got the timing about right - & Punter now gone with SRT inevitably soon to follow. All three men over time will be remembered for their achievements. They will deservedly be regarded as the modern eras finest - the benchmark for that accolade being a career lifetime test average of the low 50s. It used to be in the 40s to be regarded as a very good player but the mark for true greatness is now apaprently 55 + and the only active player with that figure is Kallis; his average has remained remarkably & impressively similar for more than ten years while that of his contemporaries has fallen inexorably in RPs and more slowly in STs case. I can't see JK exceeding STs actual aggregate - at best Kallis may only have another 2 years - but I predict his final average will be far superior - as it is now - to either of them and yet still he is not regarded outside the original top three!!!

  • James on December 4, 2012, 12:19 GMT

    Billy Birmingham will now need to come up with his version of Ricky Ponting's voice for his next album! That's where all the legends of Australian cricket belong :) It was a pleasure to have been able to watch you play Ricky, especially during those years where you were undoubtedly the greatest batsman in the world, the strokeplay was sublime, and we always knew you'd pull the team out of trouble! And to finish with the most test runs by an Australian, that's some career. All the best in the future, hopefully your love for cricket will lead you towards coaching and more input into the game rather than just commentating or something.

  • Dummy4 on December 4, 2012, 11:54 GMT

    I see this "once in a generation" cricketer praise being handed out quite easily these days. But to my mind he was just that . His aggression, never say die attitude, giving so much to a team that was suddenly a shadow of its former self when Hayden, Gilchrist,Warne, McGrath and Langer all left around the same time, he hung in there still leading, still making runs and doing his best. I also believe hie was the best all round fielder in the world. He fielded at point, in the slips, gully, silly point and short mid wicket. He could hit the stumps with terrific frequency and turn games around. He did not have the fairy tale endings of Warne and McGrath but he was no less a genius. Have a wonderful life Ricky and thank you for just about everything. Ramanujam Sridhar

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