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A hero even in defeat

Australia didn't bow out without a fight, and the man who was at the heart of their World Cup dominance made the strongest stand

Sambit Bal

March 25, 2011

Comments: 56 | Text size: A | A

Ricky Ponting pumps his fist on getting to a century, India v Australia, 2nd quarter-final, Ahmedabad, World Cup 2011, March 24, 2011
A masterful performance in another World Cup game against India, but one to end in disappointment © Getty Images
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At the end of his final press conference as a World Cup captain, Ricky Ponting was asked if he was the tragic hero of the match. It drew a little a shrug and a wan smile. "I honestly don't know how to answer that," Ponting said, "I'm a tragic hero? I don't feel much of a hero at the moment, I must admit."

It was one of the many touching moments during the press conference. Ponting cut an elegiac figure in the press conference, as he had done most through the match. He answered the questions, even the inane ones, with sincerity, dignity, and the occasional bit of humour. How did he rate India's chances? "Better than ours." Did he consider playing John Hastings ahead of Jason Krejza? "Five fast bowlers? I can imagine what you guys would have said then." But there was no hiding what he felt: he looked gutted.

I had been at his press conference in Colombo after Australia had lost their last league match against Pakistan. It was his first loss as a World Cup captain, and it ended a winning streak for Australia that spanned 12 years and 34 matches. But Ponting had looked upbeat. His form would turn around; the trophy could still be won.

On Thursday, though, his eyes looked glassy, his visage drawn. After enduring a wretched World Cup as a batsman, Ponting had produced his best innings of the tournament, and arguably, the best innings of the match. And though this "wasn't the first time I have scored a hundred and we've lost'', there would be no more World Cup innings for him. Australia and Ricky Ponting, World Cup colossuses both, would be going home the next day. "I feel devastated," he said a few times.

Sachin Tendulkar, the author of many solos during India's days of misery, would know the feeling. Even in this World Cup Tendulkar has scored two hundreds but India didn't win on either occasion. On Thursday, his was one of the three Indian half-centuries and his team got over the line. He would take that over his 100th hundred, which must wait for another day.

Australia have produced an abundance of champion cricketers since Ponting's arrival but very few of them have had their character tested as severely.

It was Ponting's first international hundred in 13 months, and he couldn't have chosen a better match. On a pitch that turned in the first hour, Ponting came in to bat with two offspinners - one of them his old nemesis Harbhajan Singh - in operation, and he built his innings gradually and expertly, playing late, watching the ball and working it into the gaps. Unlike his last World Cup hundred against India, it wasn't a commanding performance, but masterful nonetheless. It wasn't his fault that the Australian innings stuttered and withered away.

"It might take me a while to think about my own innings tonight," he said, "Just how I feel at the moment and the fact that we're going home on the plane. I don't think I'll actually think much about it at all.

"It could be my last World Cup game. If I end up having made a hundred in my last World Cup game, then I guess I can be pretty happy at the end of the day. I've always been one of those guys that's never really reflected on what I've done until a lot later. I've never really been a stats man, that doesn't worry me."

Ponting and Brett Lee were the only two members in the current side who were part of that team in 2003 that had mauled India in final. And both gave all of themselves to keep Australia in the hunt. Lee bowled a sharp and tight opening spell and came back to provide the breakthrough with the wicket of MS Dhoni. He then returned for a final tilt with a bandage over his right eye after a despairing dive ended up with the ball smashing into his head. But there were no last-gasp twists in store for Australia: Suresh Raina lofted his first ball in to the stands, and effectively ended Australia's World Cup reign.

But they didn't go without a fight, and the man who was at the heart of their World Cup dominance made the strongest stand. Australia have produced an abundance of champion cricketers since his arrival but very few of them have had their character tested as severely. Even in defeat, Ricky Ponting has gone out a hero.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (March 28, 2011, 9:53 GMT)

Superb article... Punter thank you for your contribution to cricket. Your style and attacking strokes are still fresh in mind... You have always been an oustanding captain and player... Now give up the captaincy and just enjoy the game, let others take the responsibillity........

Posted by   on (March 28, 2011, 6:51 GMT)

Ponting is not only the Great batsman of this era, infact he is the greatest batsman of all era.... he is not a wonderful captain though but he is one of my favorite batsman because he is look like righthanded Brian Lara..... I really admire Lara, I rate Lara above great Bradman bcoz Lara faced quality fast and spin bowlers, likes of Wasim & Waqar, Warne & Macrah , Donald & Pollock and Murli ..... so tats y i rated Lara above Bradman and also Lara's match winning ability............

Posted by   on (March 28, 2011, 5:30 GMT)

sambit.. its a real pleasure to read the article. no doubt ricky is a great hero of the cricket and rules many hearts with his batting abilities. everyday is not Sunday, thats what people say and this world cup was not the sunday for aussies.. i believe that it will take quite some time for aussies to make a mark at the international level now as their weaknesses were exposed by india and pakistan.. now if ricky continues as captain at least for an year then things can get better if not things will get worse. and if he retires then that will be the end of days for aussie cricket...

Posted by   on (March 28, 2011, 5:22 GMT)

Good Article. I feel Ponting should be freed from the burden of captaincy. This will let him play "Look..Who is the Boss" kind of innings rather than the one the he played in Ahmedabad.

Posted by   on (March 28, 2011, 4:37 GMT)

ricky ponting-best of the best

Posted by HLANGL on (March 27, 2011, 17:31 GMT)

Outstanding batsman to say the least. There may have been several greats in recent times such as Gilchrist, Jayasuriya, Shewag, even Saeed Anwar who had very special skills & would turn a game on its head single handedly when the mood stuck them, but if you go for the complete batsmanship with all the charismatic flair & the long term consistency, no one in the past two decades would beat the trio Lara, Tendulkar & Ponting. Hope he would still play for Australia for at least a couple of years. Cricket would be so poor if this man would be no longer around. It's not his fault that Austrailia panicked this time. Sincerely hope that the Australian selectors would not do the same mistake done by WI selectors in '96 who pushed their then captain Richie Richardson to retirement. What did they got in return ? They lost one of their star batsmen & team became in fact quite a laughingstock under the subsequent leaderships.

Posted by isot123 on (March 27, 2011, 17:09 GMT)

the way he came out of poor form to do so well in a high pressure match...hez just awesome...

Posted by   on (March 27, 2011, 10:55 GMT)

A hundred in a losing cause doesn't make Ponting a Tragic Hero. He is a Hero, was n remains forever.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2011, 9:18 GMT)

A great article to one of the greatest batsmen of this era!!

Posted by   on (March 27, 2011, 8:50 GMT)

Ponting was a successful cricketer and a proud captain. Sadly cricket seems to have no place for pride and confidence. As seen with Ganguly earlier and then Ponting who were both criticized for having the attitude of taking on their opponents and not giving up. Probably this was one of the last of a breed of no nonsense kick ass cricketers. Thanks for everything Ponting!

Posted by popcorn on (March 27, 2011, 8:38 GMT)

To me,Ricky Ponting is the greatest cricketer EVER. The ONLY Cricketer who is a Batting Legend AND the winningest Captain EVER. He is the consummate competitor. He may not win the Nobel Peace Prize, but...As a batsman, only next to Sir Donald Bradman. As a Test Captain, his record of 47 Test victories as Captain will NEVER be taken away by ANY Captain EVER. As Test Captain with the most consective number of Test victories, he shares this with Steve Waugh. Again a record that will NEVER be broken. As one who rebuilt the side,he is akin to the legendary Allan Border.He instilled confidence in his young team to beat South Africa IN South Africa 2 -1.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2011, 7:35 GMT)

Nice article Sambit. Ponting is the best batsman of recent era without any doubts. There could be other batsmen at same time with better records in other terms, but as a Player, as a Batsman, as a Fielder and as a Captain = he is the BEST! People should not judge him based on recent matches, he has given plenty to the world of cricket and Aus. Even in the recent loss to India, he fought bravely!! Hats-off to him! Aussie - selectors - please retain him - if you want to help juniors grow and for some more wins in near future!

Posted by coeurlion on (March 27, 2011, 6:30 GMT)

Great article Sambit! It was sad to see Australia lose, but they fought to the end. India were too good, and deserve their SF spot. But well played Ricky... led from the front and saved the best till last, as always befits a champion. Methinks all too soon he'll announce his retirement. But as they say... all good things must come to end :(

Posted by   on (March 27, 2011, 5:48 GMT)


Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 18:50 GMT)

A brilliant article for an outstanding performer....ricky u were d greatest cricketer nd true icon...will mis you punter.

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 18:04 GMT)

great tribute to great man

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 16:33 GMT)

gud article...........punter u r a true champion.....i wil mis u a lot

Posted by gany1 on (March 26, 2011, 14:57 GMT)

Punter is true leader however post 2007 wc retirement of some big players ..he is feeling lot of pressure to retain his no.1 side in cricket which not happen. I admire a lot punter for keeping captaincy and to continue the batting best way..Only person to be captaining the side and to be in the best batsman list all time...He has done well...But time has come...i think he should quit odi and should concentrate in test as captain in order to lift his side from one end ...And reason for punter downfall was no body supporting from other nor batsman or bowler.....future lies in selectors...Salutes to punter for his amazing record as captain and as a batsman..nobody can match that figure when dual responsibilities is taken...

Posted by cricsom5667 on (March 26, 2011, 14:35 GMT)

Great article Sambit ! A great exponent of the art of batsmanship ! And what a way to go (i.e. if he decides to go out of ODI's). Punter, you will always be highly regarded as a batsman (and as a fielder as well) right up there with SRT & BCL. But you could have done without a bit of a gamesmanship (was it worth it if you reflect now?)- then would have loved to give you an (imaginary) equivalent of a guard of honour for being a great exponent of the game in the truest sense (as cricket always has been a gentleman's game) as you trudge of the ODI field with your head held high for the laurels you brought upon your country and yourself.

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 13:38 GMT)

Ponting is and always will be a legend . A Captain whom anybody who knows sport or team work would be honoured to play for It is a shame people do not remember what he has achieved , I do support India but I can respect a phenomenal Captain and a great servant to Australia and Cricket. Good Luck Ponting

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 11:27 GMT)

Ricky Ponting is a great player and nothin can change that. Booing by crowd after the interview was totaly wrong, may be we should have given him a standing ovation. He is such a great player that even though my full heart was for victory for India, but I felt sad for ponting that his team lost the game. But then one team has to win, and even though India won the game ricky Ponting won hearts of many and the article has done a great service to his attitude and love for the game. Cheers to real Hero of the game in addtion to the Indian Team who pulled a real great win, to all including Gautam Gambhir who played great game even though he was run out

Posted by SachinIsAGoner on (March 26, 2011, 11:24 GMT)

Thanks Sambit - for the article on my favourite Hero.

Posted by popcorn on (March 26, 2011, 8:58 GMT)

To me,Ricky Ponting is the greatest cricketer EVER.The ONLY Cricketer who is a Batting Legend AND the winningest Captain EVER.He is the consummate competitor.He may not win the Nobel Peace Prize, but...As a batsman, only next to Sir Donald Bradman.As a Test Captain, his record of 47 Test victories as Captain will NEVER be taken away by ANY Captain EVER. As Test Captain with the most consective number of Test victories, he shares this with Steve Waugh. Again a record that will NEVER be broken.As one who rebuilt the side,he is akin to the legendary Allan Border.He instilled confidence in his young team to beat South Africa IN South Africa 2 -1.

Posted by raju_rocks on (March 26, 2011, 8:48 GMT)

Yes, Ricky Ponting played like a hero until the last ball of the match, and undoubtedly, he is an inspiration for all the youngsters.

Posted by arya_underfoot on (March 26, 2011, 7:13 GMT)

few people have doubted his batting prowess. if ricky wants to keep playing, he needs to relinquish the captaincy and move down the batting order. he has much to contribute as a batsman and as a batting mentor, but the captaincy he must give up in the best interests of the team. guys like khwaja, ferguson and finch need to be brought into the team...

Posted by harshthakor on (March 26, 2011, 5:09 GMT)

One of the finest innings I have seen in world Cup.On a difficult wicket Ponting made a remarkable comeback rising to the occasion like a woulded commander coming back to lead a heroic victory.Ponting exhibited great technical skills adjusting himself to the slowness of the pitch .It is sad that his knock had to end in defeat and proves that the greateset of knocks have not been the match-wining ones.Ponting proved that on his day he is a player in the Tendulkar and Lara class.

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 4:57 GMT)

wel done ricky...u were a masterpiece....

Posted by CricFan24 on (March 26, 2011, 3:52 GMT)

Ponting has only started feeling it now. Tendulkar went through the same thing for most of the '90s and Lara for the 2000s.

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 2:31 GMT)

True, that! Don't expect him to be the cricketing saint Tendulkar is. He is a man of peppery temper, and has been a nuisance at times. But Ricky Ponting is a winner. ( three times, to be precise) The fabled Aussie dominance was always going to be tested once the greats walked away. Immense credit to Ponting and Lee for keeping the fight alive ( more so for Ponting who has never walked away from captaincy, or blamed the tyros for defeats - instead held it together for as long as he could). It was a masterful farewell innings in the World Cup. He definitely deserved a standing ovation instead of the boos from the spectators. His talent, attitude and aggression have long been on show. His last WC innings reminded the world about the tenacity, fight and character which made him a modern day great ..

Posted by katycat on (March 26, 2011, 1:08 GMT)

An excellent article. Amongst all the criticism and attacks on Ponting its good to see him rightly appreciated. He has made an incredible contribution to Australian cricket and is truly one of the great heroes of the game.

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 0:39 GMT)

I was one of the very early fan of Punter when he entered OZ team. The way he plays was just like a hopping kangaroo swings the bat. With so much of experience that he had in cricket and much with his team, the loss he encountered against INDIA was barely unacceptable. Despite questioning his captaincy talents it was more on his batting skills that went on depreciating game after game. I completely honour him for his play against INDIA that he has scored a wonderful century who has proved to be sole spartan fighting for the survival along with 10 other players who werent in the business at all. I would like recollect something here that what went wrong in ASHES and what was done. What happen to Khwaja , he was a good left hander. instead of white they could have picked either marsh or warner that would be little fruitful. its a loss, they need to go back to their home and work on many things to come back as a true winner.

Posted by Monisha on (March 25, 2011, 22:17 GMT)

The best article, I have read so far!

Posted by mitch9541 on (March 25, 2011, 22:02 GMT)

A brilliant story to match probably a great innings in his last world cup match by one of the best batsman of his era. I believe Clarke needs to take the captaincy now to start preparing to win the world cup on home soil in 4 years time. I dont mind if punter plays on as a batsman aslong as hes the best man for the job. If theres a younger player who's just as good then that player should get the nod ahead of ricky. Thankyou for your service to one day cricket punter, but its time to let the captaincy go.

Posted by SanjivAwesome on (March 25, 2011, 21:48 GMT)

Ponting is a great global icon for cricket. Even tho his domestic press will maul his performance, he will always remain a powerhouse player in my mind

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 21:03 GMT)

This was a good article, thank you for writing it. I was disgusted to read that the crowd booed Ponting at the post-match interview. Good to know that his genius and class is still appreciated in some circles.

Posted by Gurwant on (March 25, 2011, 21:00 GMT)

a great article. Ricky has won hearts of many cricket lovers..........

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 20:24 GMT)

Au Revoir Ricky !!! Your contributions to the game of cricket will fondly be remembered, and your presence be missed....

Posted by kaka_messi on (March 25, 2011, 19:23 GMT)

A great article. A majority of the cricketing world wrote Ricky Ponting off, they slated him for the last 18 months or so saying that 'he is finished', 'pontings a goner' but the reality is he has just shut up all of his critics. Whichever stats you look at for batsmen, Ricky Ponting is never too far from the great Sachin Tendulkar which goes to show how great a player he is and those who wrote Ponting off are fools. As Sambit said it wasn't the easiest pitch to bat on, it wasn't an ordinary game he was playing in - it was the quarter finals against the mighty Indians and he delivered. It was not long ago that Sachin was going through a bad patch and people wrote him off - what fools and they did not learn this time either. Form is temporary BUT class is permanent.

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 19:11 GMT)

Ricky Ponting started out as a brat, but used his brashness to become one of the game's greatest cricketer and a champion world cup performer. Despite his fallacies, he remains one of the game's icons. We all saw what he is made of y'day. Well done Ponting, We will miss you!!

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 19:10 GMT)

Ricky Ponting started out as a brat, but used his brashness to become of the game's greatest cricketer and a champion world cup performer. Despite his fallacies, he remains one of the game's icons. We all saw what he is made of y'day. Well done Ponting, We will miss you!!

Posted by m_ilind on (March 25, 2011, 19:08 GMT)

Hats off to Ponting, played like a true champion. Congrats to Dhoni and the entire Indian team for beating Aus. Team India can take a lot of positives and confidence from this victory!

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 18:47 GMT)

I totally agree with your views here. Sad to see the bashing that Ponting is receiving after the WC exit. He fighter like a champion true to his nature and was disappointing end to a WC career that has seen great heights in the past.

Posted by AndyZaltzmannsHair on (March 25, 2011, 18:30 GMT)

Why were Indian fans booing him at the end of the game? Disgraceful, and that coming from myself, a man who has never been too enamoured by Ponting.

Posted by Ravster_Xi on (March 25, 2011, 18:29 GMT)

thanks sambit - well balanced article

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 18:29 GMT)

Simply Great Player ........... If Mike Hussey could have played for 5 to 7 overs alongwith Ponting, we could have been thinking same about Tendulkar (Who by the way is luckiest person on earth right now as long as life Dunya is concerned).

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 18:23 GMT)

hats off... a legend dat will leave cricket n die as a LEGEND...

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 18:05 GMT)

Captaincy of Ponting is perfect instance for this line of Aristotle "Excellence is not an act but a habit".

Posted by omer123 on (March 25, 2011, 18:04 GMT)

Just A Legand! Ponting we are with you!

Posted by ashz27 on (March 25, 2011, 17:55 GMT)

Ponting is among the top 5 players of all time...He's been at the receiving end for almost 2 years and yet he handled himself and the team at the highest level. There have been people criticizing him.. but he needs all the support in this situation.... Praising him when the team 's performing is not what's required, than in these tough times. Being a ardent fan of cricket, Australia wouldn't have acquired this dominance without him for sure. Ponting is the best one can have. He is the best, a country can dream of having him in the side. I really admire Ponting and support him all the way.

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 17:23 GMT)

A wonderful article.....I never liked him as a person...But Ponting deserves all credit for the endurance he has shown throughout an outstanding career....A fabulous player...And one of the best batters I have seen bat in my life time...Well played Punter...You will truly go down in the history books as a World Cup Legend...

Posted by sidzy on (March 25, 2011, 17:20 GMT)


Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 17:08 GMT)

Great Article Sambit!!! Sad but fitting way to go for Punter and Lee!!!!!

Posted by ss_ton on (March 25, 2011, 17:08 GMT)

Well said Sambit! Its about time that we Indians gave the Australians in general, and Ponting in particular, their due. Great champions do not give in without a fight, even when their abilities have waned. Say what you will about the Australians, but no one can deny that they have been a champion cricket team with few parallels in ALL of sport.

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 16:59 GMT)

Ricky Ponting is the best player of the world cup and the ever great captain in cricket history..

Posted by Something_Witty on (March 25, 2011, 16:24 GMT)

Great article. I will always remember Ricky as the champion batsman and leader who WON Australia two world cups, rather than a captain who lost one. I'm sure any other captain would give their left arm for Ponting's world cup record. Especially given that, at time of writing, NO OTHER captain has EVER won a world cup, while Ponting has won THREE, including two as captain. A fitting, if not fairytale world cup farewell to a true legend of the game. Great career and a champion player.

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 16:23 GMT)

Well played Ricky. You are a legend. Although I was envious - even jealous - of Aussies beating the world hands down, I enjoyed watching you bat. Sadly all good things must come to an end I guess. The last scion of a magnificent era, like Brian Lara, you will be missed in World Cups, and in general when you retire! All the best mate.

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Sambit Bal Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.

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