A triumph-filled career
Following the retirements of the top stars of the all-conquering Australian team in 2008, Ricky Ponting was faced with the unenviable task of rebuilding the side. During this difficult phase for the team, Ponting endured a major slump in his Test batting form as Australia fell from their perch. His ODI form in the same period, however, was not as badly affected. Ironically, just after he incredibly managed to salvage his faltering Test career with a superb performance against India, his form deserted him in the shorter format. Ponting registered five consecutive single-digit scores for the first time, and his subsequent axing from the squad almost guarantees an end to his ODI career. At the time of being dropped, Ponting finished as both the second-highest in terms of runs and centuries in ODIs behind Sachin Tendulkar. For the majority of his career, Ponting played at No.3 and ended with the most runs and centuries (29) at that pivotal position. Through a 16-year career, he maintained a high level of consistency in ODIs and scored over 1000 runs in a calendar year six times. Although he scored nearly 63% of his runs in the first innings (8630 runs with 22 centuries) at an average of 42.09, he was not too far behind in chases scoring at an average of 41.93 with eight centuries. Ponting's record of 32 Man-of-the-Match awards puts him third on the list of players with the most match awards in ODIs.
Brilliant World Cup record
Ponting reserved his best quite often for the crucial games and nowhere was this more evident than in the World Cup. He started his glittering run in World Cups with 102 against West Indies in Jaipur in the 1996 tournament but had a slightly disappointing 1999 World Cup in England where he scored just one half-century. However, as the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, he scored two centuries in the tournament leading Australia to their second consecutive triumph. In the final at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, after a sedate start to his innings, he switched gears and put the game beyond India's reach with an outstanding unbeaten 140, which included a record eight sixes. Fittingly, he ended his World Cup career with another vital century, though Australia lost the match to India in Ahmedabad. Although Ponting finished as the second-highest run-getter in World Cups behind Tendulkar, he scored the most centuries (4) by any player against the top ODI teams in World Cups. His excellent average of 52.00 against the top teams (all Test teams excluding ZImbabwe and Bangladesh) is bettered only by Viv Richards' 66.46 among batsmen with 900-plus runs in World Cups. Ponting also ended as the highest six hitter in World Cup history with 31 sixes.
A better away record overall
During the course of his career, Ponting produced strong performances in almost all countries. He finished as the highest run-getter in the Australian tri-series and scored nine centuries in those matches. He averaged the highest against England (48.42) with five centuries, including four outside Australia. Surprisingly, he failed to perform against India and Pakistan at home (average of 28.33 and 25.68 respectively) but averaged 45.94 and 56.27 against the two teams in away/neutral games. He was also dominant in matches against Australia's trans-Tasman rivals, New Zealand, especially in home games where he averaged close to 55 with five centuries. Although he failed to score a single hundred against South Africa at home, two of his centuries came in away ODIs, including his highest score of 164 in the famous Johannesburg ODI in 2006 when the hosts chased down the target of 435. Ponting was prolific in home ODIs, scoring 13 centuries at 39.17 but did better outside Australia, scoring 17 centuries and averaging 44.13.
|Opposition||Home (Matches/Runs)||Home (avg, 100/50)||Away/neutral (matches/runs)||Away/neutral (avg, 100/50)|
|England||15/547||49.72, 1/4||24/1051||47.77, 4/4|
|India||18/510||28.33, 2/1||41/1654||45.94, 4/8|
|New Zealand||20/878||54.87, 5/2||31/1093||40.48, 1/10|
|Pakistan||20/488||25.68, 0/4||15/619||56.27, 1/4|
|South Africa||22/849||38.59, 0/7||26/1030||41.20, 2/6|
|Sri Lanka||25/796||46.18, 3/3||21/853||50.17, 1/7|
|West Indies||19/774||45.52, 1/7||26/701||29.20, 1/5|
The key partnerships
Playing for most of his career in a team filled with brilliant batsmen, Ponting often forged match-winning top-order stands in ODIs. His partnership with Adam Gilchrist was the most prolific, yielding 3607 runs at an average of 46.84 with eight century stands. He shared the most century partnerships with Michael Clarke (11) and Matthew Hayden (10). He also aggregated over 3000 partnership runs with the classy Damien Martyn. Perhaps the most famous partnership of theirs came in the 2003 World Cup final when they shared an unbroken 234-run third-wicket stand to boost Australia to a massive 359. A stand-out aspect of Ponting's Test and ODI careers has always been the uncanny ability to raise his game when the team has struggled. Most notably, with Australia on the brink at 10 for 3 against Sri Lanka in the second tri-series final in 2006, he and Andrew Symonds shared an Australian tri-series record 237-run stand and lifted Australia to 368 thus deflating the opponents, who went on to lose the best-of-three finals 2-1. Ponting also remains the only player to be involved in seven double-century stands in ODIs, with the highest of 252 coming against England in the Champions Trophy semi-final in 2009.
Unlike Tendulkar and Brian Lara, two of his greatest contemporaries, Ponting had the good fortune of being part of a record-breaking team for more than ten years, a period during which Australia consistently notched up wins. Ponting played his part, scoring 25 of his 30 centuries in wins (83.33). Among batsmen with 10,000-plus ODI runs, only Mahela Jayawardene (93.33) and Sanath Jayasuriya (85.70) have a higher percentage of centuries in wins. In this elite group, Ponting and Tendulkar remain the only batsmen to score over 10,000 runs in wins. However, Ponting has an extraordinarily high win-run percentage of 78.26 and is comfortably ahead of Jacques Kallis, who is in second position with a corresponding percentage of 69.63.
|Batsman||Runs||Runs in wins||100s||100s in wins||% runs in wins||% 100s in wins|
Leading Australia to the top
Ponting took over from Steve Waugh as Australia's ODI captain following Australia's failure to qualify for the tri-series finals in 2001-02. In his first series as captain, Ponting led Australia to a 5-1 win in South Africa. After their win in the tri-series at home in 2002-03, Australia embarked on a record winning streak of 21 matches between January 2003 and May 2003. Not only did Ponting finish as the most successful ODI captain (165 wins), he also became only the second player after Clive Lloyd to lead his team to two World Cup wins and also featured in four World Cup finals. Under his leadership, Australia extended their dominance to the Champions Trophy, a tournament in which they had previously struggled. With wins in the tournament in India (2006) and South Africa (2009), Ponting's status as arguably the greatest ODI captain was confirmed. Only he and Allan Border finished with more than 100 ODI wins as captains but Ponting's win percentage of 71.73 was far higher than that of Border (60.11). Australia's win-loss ratio under Ponting (71.47) is only matched by South Africa's under Hansie Cronje, although the latter captained in 92 fewer matches.
|Player||Matches||Wins||Losses||Win %||W/L ratio|
In a career filled with stunning achievements, Ponting's superlative fielding skills often slip under the radar. His tally of 160 catches is second only to Jayawardene's 186 on the list of fielders with most ODI catches. Along with his catching, his ability to consistently save runs and effect run outs were as much vital factors in Australia's wheel of dominance as were his batting and captaincy. In the end, however, despite his record-breaking feats with the bat, Ponting is likely to be remembered as the man who led an outstanding Australian team through their most successful phase in ODI history.