A champion at No.3
Ricky Ponting's journey as a Test batsman began almost exactly ten years back, and he's come a long way in that period. From a talented but impetuous 21-year-old who struggled for consistency, Ponting has blossomed into the mainstay of Australia's batting line-up, scoring runs against almost all attacks in all climes without sacrificing his flair.
Ponting's progression to the 100-Test mark shows just how he has grown in stature in the second half of his career. In his first 40 matches, he had only seven hundreds, in his next 60, he added 19 to his tally - that's almost one every three matches. In fact, in his last 49 Tests, he averages 67. (Click here for Ponting's career summary.)
His rich and consistent form over the last four years means that in any discussion about the best batsman in the world, his name figures prominently. Based strictly on numbers, no batsman has had more success than Ponting since 2002. During this period, 17 hundreds have flowed from his bat, which translates into one every 2.76 Tests - at this rate, he will go past Sunil Gavaskar's tally of 34 in just 25 Tests. Sachin Tendulkar is currently nine in front, but if Ponting continues his run-glut, he might have a realistic chance of catching up.
|Jacques Kallis||39||3703||67.32||13/ 17|
|Rahul Dravid||41||3746||64.58||11/ 16|
|Brian Lara||38||3983||61.27||13/ 12|
|Matthew Hayden||52||4975||58.52||19/ 16|
|Virender Sehwag||35||3085||54.12||9/ 9|
|Sachin Tendulkar||37||2904||53.77||8/ 11|
His numbers against each side show he's got runs facing all of them. The only team he averages less than 40 against is Bangladesh - it's unlikely he'll be spending sleepless nights over that statistic.
|New Zealand||11||808||73.45||2/ 4|
|West Indies||15||1372||65.33||6/ 4|
|South Africa||11||924||54.35||3/ 5|
|Sri Lanka||10||711||47.40||1/ 5|
Ponting's runs have come against all teams in all conditions, but the one country he has struggled in is India: in eight matches he averages a miserable 12. He makes up for it, though, with his performances against them at home.
|In India||8||172||12.28||0/ 1|
|In Australia||7||1081||108.10||4/ 3|
And unlike many top-class batsmen who have been bogged down by captaincy, the additional burden hasn't impacted Ponting's batting ability at all. Despite a few question-marks being raised over his tactical acumen, Ponting the batsman has flowered since he took over the leadership mantle.
|As captain||24||2169||57.07||6/ 11|
|Not as captain||75||5821||55.97||20/ 21|
Perhaps Ponting's biggest achievement has been the manner in which he wrested the No. 3 position in a strong Australian batting line-up and made it his own. Ponting's predecessor at that position had been David Boon, who had scored 4412 runs at one-down, with 13 centuries and 20 fifties, at an average of 45.48. These were imposing numbers, and Boon was clearly a tough act to follow. But Australia have been blessed with successors who've outdone the original masters. Just as Adam Gilchrist ensured that Ian Healy wasn't missed, Ponting took over from Boon and made an even greater success of the No. 3 spot.
In fact, in the all-time list of the best No. 3 batsmen, Ponting figures in third place, behind only Don Bradman and Wally Hammond (qualification: 30 Tests). Among the other Australian greats at that position, Ian Chappell averages 50.94 (4279 runs from 54 Tests), while Neil Harvey managed 46.67 (3454 from 54).
|Don Bradman||40||5078||103.63||20/ 10|
|Wally Hammond||37||3440||74.78||14/ 4|
|Ricky Ponting||60||5544||63.72||19/ 20|
|Viv Richards||45||3508||61.54||12/ 14|
|Rahul Dravid||77||6518||60.91||17/ 31|
|Brian Lara||39||3244||58.98||7/ 12|
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo