Waugh tips Ponting to break Lara's run record
Ponting, with 1544 runs, ended the calendar year at the top of the International Cricket Council's Test player rankings, and led his team to consecutive Test wins over a World XI and West Indies, before hitting a first-day hundred in Australia's Boxing Day triumph over South Africa.
However, when it comes to discussing Australia's most prolific run-scorers, Ponting has rarely been mentioned alongside Allan Border and Waugh. Waugh has changed this, though, stating his thoughts on Ponting ahead of his 100th Test at the SCG tomorrow. "You can never know for sure how long you're going to play for. Age and fitness come into it as well as form. There are a lot of variables but it's hard to see him slowing down for a while yet," Waugh said in The Age. "There's still a long way to go for him, but the way he's going at the moment, if you were going to pick someone to take that record, I'd say it would have to be Ricky."
Ponting, with 7,990 Test runs, is still a long way behind Lara's record of 11, 204. However, Lara is expected to retire after the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, and Ponting has time on his side.
Ponting's most damning moment as captain and cricketer came when Australia lost the Ashes after 18 years to England last summer, but Waugh, who never lost an Ashes series as captain, maintained that such losses were a chapter of a cricketer's journey. "That's part of the job," he said. "It just comes with the territory. When it's all going well, there's credit coming your way but when things are going badly, you start getting a lot of scrutiny,"
Waugh faced much criticism after his first series as captain resulted in a disappointing 2-2 draw with West Indies, followed by a nightmare start to the 1999 World Cup. Ponting, on the other hand, was hailed as a masterful captain when he guided Australia to victory at the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, and his first three Tests as captain resulted in a 3-0 clean sweep in Sri Lanka.
The loss of the Ashes changed all that, with Ponting facing heightened animosity from the Australian press for a failure to marshall his men in the face of adversity. "You can't get away from that. You just have to take the good with the bad," Waugh said. "They've come back after the Ashes and done well. As a captain you just have to have confidence in your ability, which I think Ricky has."
Tomorrow's third and final Test against South Africa will be Ponting's 11th at the SCG, a venue at which he has made 918 runs at 70.61, including his maiden hundred as Test captain - a fine 207 against Pakistan last summer. "He's easily in the top two or three Test batsmen in the world, but what he's doing is dominating in both forms of the game," Waugh said. "No one else is really doing that, so you'd have to say he's the most valuable batsman going around at the moment."