Ponting at ease with his legacy
Ricky Ponting, who stepped down as Australia's captain in Tests and ODIs, is aware he will forever be known to many as the man who presided over three Ashes series defeats. And he is happy enough to live with that. He said he already has consoled himself with the thought that there were plenty of other achievements speckled across his leadership tenure, even if a harsh-marking public does not regard them with quite so much reverence as possession of the urn.
"There probably are a few people out there who will look at me in that light [as the man who lost three Ashes series as captain], I'd like to think that through my playing time I've achieved a whole lot more than that though, whether that be as a player or as a captain of this side," Ponting said. "It's funny how we talk about losing the Ashes three times, playing in three World Cup-winning teams never comes up very often, winning 16 consecutive Test matches doesn't come up very often, winning 30-odd consecutive World Cup games doesn't come up very often, but that's the world we live in.
"I and all my teammates know, and everyone at Cricket Australia knows what I've been able to achieve in the game, and that's what I'm very proud of."
It was instructive to hear Ponting assess his own achievements, knowing that the greatest Test series victory of his time in the job - conquering the final frontier of India in 2004 - took place while he was in the dressing rooms nursing a fractured thumb. Rather than any Test series, Ponting opted for his maiden World Cup victory as captain in 2003 as the highlight, when his team emerged from the most dysfunctional of beginnings to charge unbeaten through the tournament.
Shane Warne's ignominious departure on event eve due to a drugs ban might have derailed a less united party, while Ponting's unwavering belief in Andrew Symonds was rewarded with a coruscating century against Pakistan in that very first match. Great escapes were made against England and New Zealand, and Ponting's masterpiece of precise destruction - a brazenly-struck 140 - was reserved for the final as India were humbled at the Wanderers.
"I think if I was to pick one it would probably be the first World Cup that I captained [in 2003], a relatively new captain going into that tournament," he said.
"As everyone knows we got through that tournament undefeated, I made a big hundred in the final and to this day that's probably one of the proudest moments of my career."
There was some level of pride in Ponting, too, at how he had handled the slide of a great team into difficulty. Not so much in the manner of his captaincy on the field, which was at some times reactive and others woefully misguided - including the over-rate farce in Nagpur 2008 when the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was surrendered - but more in how he had kept trying to keep his head while all around him people were losing theirs. Few captains have endured such lengthy inquisitions on their future with as much frankness and even temper as Ponting.
"Whenever you've got questions being asked like that about you going into a big game it's always reasonably hard to deal with, but to tell the truth it's something I've had to deal with for the last six or eight months," he said. "There've been a lot of questions out there about me and my leadership and even my batting at different times, so there's no doubt that's got harder to deal with.
"The thing I'm really proud about is how I've handled it and how I've responded, to be able to respond the way I did with the bat in the last game under probably the most pressure the team and I have been under in a long time, was really satisfying.
"The thing you can't forget either is whenever you've been in a position of responsibility like I've been in for a long period of time, those questions are going to come your way at some stage. "Whoever the next captain might be has to make sure he's ready for that as well."
What remains for Ponting is to concentrate again on his batting, offer advice to younger team-mates when it is sought or merited, and keep one eye on the distant goal of a final Ashes tour in 2013. "I would've liked to have won an Ashes series away, that would've been a nice thing to have done as a captain, and obviously sitting here now I've given up that opportunity to do that, that's something I would've loved to achieve," he said.
Ponting, however, has not set a time-frame for retirement and hoped that, with the burden of captaincy now off his back, he'd be able to perform better as a player.
" is probably unlikely but it depends how I play, I haven't put a finish date or time on when my international career's going to be over.
"To tell the honest truth I think the fact I'm not captain anymore might give me the chance of actually playing better.
"It'll just keep me a bit mentally fresher than I have been the last couple of years. I think if I'm mentally fresh and got my skills in reasonable order I think I'll be able to certainly bat better than I have in the past six months."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo