Why Ponting was voted Player of the Decade
Even friends are complaining that Cricinfo's Decade Review went on and on, and having suffered the 2007 World Cup, we know the feeling. In our defence we can only say that it was quite a decade and we were keen to cover as much ground as possible. Now the matter is behind us and we can move on to the next one.
Of course there have been questions about our very concept of a decade. Should the decade not end next year, a few of you asked. We have followed a simple principle: Do we ever refer to the year 1990 as part of the 80s? How then can 2010 be part of the noughties? Of course, there can be an argument to the contrary, but we simply made a choice.
There has been far more passionate debate about the final element in the Decade Review package, and inevitably so. It would have been a surprise had it been otherwise. But the disappointing aspect of it is how parochial some of that debate has been. Whether Ricky Ponting deserved to be the player of the decade is a question that can be asked without being narrow-minded and mean-spirited.
Happily enough for us, not a trace of nationalist bias could be found in our jury. Without breaching the confidentiality of the process, I can reveal a few trends. More Indian jury members gave the No. 1 ranking to Ricky Ponting than Australian ones did, and exactly the same number of Indians and Australians had Sachin Tendulkar among their top three players. Seven of our nine Indian panelists gave the No. 1 ranking to an Australian player, and three No. 1 rankings for Jacques Kallis came from outside South Africa.
I can exercise the liberty to reveal my vote. I didn¹t choose Ponting as my No. 1. My player of the decade was Glenn McGrath; for to me it was he more than anyone else who was responsible for Australia¹s dominance till 2007. Shane Warne had a strong case too, but he gave up playing one-day cricket in 2003. But Ponting won by an overwhelming margin, and in our collective wisdom the right choice was made.
We asked the jury to choose the Player of Decade on the basis of quality of their performances, consistency and durability, contribution to their team's overall performance, and the impact they had on the game on the whole. Ponting's case went beyond the numbers alone which were staggering in any case. He led, both with the bat and on the field, Australia to two World Cup wins, and his fire has kept Australia burning even after they lost all their great players apart from him.
It was never a question of who was the best player over a whole career. In a list of all-time great batsmen, Tendulkar and Brian Lara would always be, at least in my book, ahead of Ponting. But their best years were in the 90s. As were Warne's. No batsman has dominated the decade of the bat as much as Ponting.
Cricket is a small community. It must celebrate its greats without reservation or rancour.
Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo