Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney December 30, 2010

There goes Ponting the Test hero

When thinking and grumbling about Ricky Ponting in his current state, don't forget that he has been Australia's best batsman since Bradman

If this is the Test end for Ricky Ponting - and it almost certainly is - it is not the way he deserved to go. Cricket doesn't always let the greats choreograph their departures and there will be no traditional SCG farewell for Australia's best batsman since Bradman. Don't forget that when thinking and grumbling about Ponting in his current state.

He may have been a limited captain with an equally basic team in his final two years, but Ponting, 36, was a modern master for more than a decade. He was not flashy and magnetic like Lara, or mistake-free like Tendulkar, just technically pure and unfashionably hungry.

Ponting was a kid who stepped into the team with 96 on debut against Sri Lanka in 1995-96 and walked back into the dressing room with rare fury following a terrible lbw decision. A batsman who would hook and pull when most others considered the shot too risky. A stylist who would spend as much time driving through the covers as lying under them. A tiny man who became a batting giant.

There were intermittent bad choices on and off the field, but he matured into the most successful run-maker in Australia's side and as a captain was on the verge of reaching statesman status. He has been in charge of the side's most painful defeats of the past 15 years, but he was always calm, honest and engaging when dissecting what went wrong. In Sydney today he laughed when someone asked him if he needed his eyes checked. Until lately he was always loveable with the bat, but it took time to adore him as a man.

Handed the captaincy in 2004, Ponting knew Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and a batch of other first-rate performers would soon be retiring. He stood up and held the team together for longer than most expected. When the slide came quickly he still he wouldn't give up. These were his men and he would stick with them. Even yesterday at the MCG he was talking about how desperate he was to push them back towards the top, more determined than deluded.

His record currently stands at 12,363 runs at 53.51 in 152 Tests, with 99 victories. There have been 39 Test centuries, but none since January, and he added just 113 runs in his eight Ashes innings over the past month. Watching him it was easy to recall The Foofighters' song Hero.

There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
He's ordinary

Sadly, Ponting has been ordinary for more than a year. A move down the order might have saved him, but it took a barren streak, a broken finger and another Ashes disappointment to consider a switch. Like the emu and the kangaroo, which stare at each other on the crest of the baggy green, Ponting was unable to go backwards.

The deterioration of his little-finger injury, which he sustained in the third Test in Perth, has saved the selectors from a major decision over how to handle the captain. A doctor has made the choice for them and it is most likely the panel won't have to meet to pick a Test team until August. By then the emotional attachment to Ponting will have weakened.

Of course he will always be the captain whose only Ashes victory in four campaigns was the 5-0 whitewash in 2006-07. But when thinking of his batting, overlook his troubles in this series and remember that he has been virtually peerless as a run-maker for most of his adult life.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 5, 2011, 16:03 GMT we go again. No matter what the context is the Indians are gonna talk about viru,

  • Balaji on January 4, 2011, 17:25 GMT

    It is sad if this is indeed the end of the road for Ponting. I don't see him coming back. He looks defeated as captain and is too proud to play under someone his junior. I don't know about getting a second wind like Tendulkar. Tendulkar went through the process of retooling his game for quite a long time, before it came together in the 2007 Australia tour. The change in approach was quite visible. I haven't seen Ponting do something like that. Talking about his captaincy Sydney 2008 was the turning point for him. The way he escalated the Symonds Harbhajan incident was not something a cooler head would have done. In the process he lost Symonds. As captain his handling of players left much to be desired. The way Tait, Hodge, Lee and others have fallen away shows it. A great batsman, a reasonably good captain, but no statesman. But, all said and done Punter deserves better. Will Australia give it to him?

  • Harsh on January 3, 2011, 15:51 GMT

    If he retires it is a great loss to the game.Statistically,the best Aussie sbatsman of all after Don Bradman.He played pure fast bowling better than Lara or Tendulkar and at times reminded one of the ferocity of Viv Richards.Ponting at his peak scored in Bradmanesque fashion Infact at one stage he statistically outperformed Tendulkar averaging over58+runs when passing the 800,9,000 and 10,000 run marks and looked set to even surpass Tendulkar.

    Overall I still fel that Greg Chappell was the 2nd best batsman of Australia after Bradman,considering the attacks he faced and the era which he played in.Remember the World Series Stats.I will remember Ponting as the best player of pace bowling after Viv Richards and the best match-winner with Inzamam Ul-Haq of the modern era.

  • prasad on January 3, 2011, 14:11 GMT

    Hi, everyone must remember that neither any of the captains in the history of cricket has as best as batting track records as like as ponting, so there is nothing to comment on ponting and about his batting, ok, even sachin, lara, kallis and many other batsment do not make best themselves as a leader. So by all these aspects PONTING IS THE BEST. Of course about umpiring decission, if India had taking reveiwing system, they wouldn't have won any of the series with they won now.

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2011, 19:59 GMT

    Mr.Peter, I didn't understand 'he has been virtually peerless as a run-maker for most of his adult life.' Really? What about waugh brothers, gilchrist, heydan , hussey etc.? Were they not scoring runs? That line better suits for sachin, lara, injamam etc.

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2011, 16:24 GMT

    PUNTER is always one of a greatest player to have played cricket as a Captain & a batsman. He is still second greatest after Don. Modern day Gladiator.

  • Wes on January 2, 2011, 12:05 GMT

    What makes me laugh, is the comments on here about Ponting getting preferential treatment from umpires, and surprise suprise Tendulkar getting alot of bad decisions. I suspect these comments are most likely from fans whose team has been on the receiving end of a Ponting inspired Aussie victory ie World Cup 2003. In fact, the disdain shown for Ponting on here, has more to to with his success over his career in all forms of the game. From a unbiased cricket fan, well done Ricky!!

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2011, 9:57 GMT

    It is true Ponting has been lucky with Umpiring decisions throughout his career. By and large, Australians have benefited from incorrect umpiring decisions. Tendulkar on the other hand has suffered from poor umpiring decisions.

  • laxman on January 1, 2011, 14:09 GMT

    Ponting and Tendulkar have been the best players for me. I both rank them equally and the stats or their recent performances dont bother me. Even if both retire today they will be my favorites. Although a die hard sachin fan, i have always loved seeing ricky play. No matter what the situation is he was always positive and always played positive cricket, he always stood out as a batsmen in the australian team. I think its wrong to count ponting out, players have a bad phase. I am very sure that ricky will bounce back, dont count him out yet. He still has a couple of years of cricket left at least as a batsman if not as a captain.

  • Dummy4 on January 1, 2011, 1:08 GMT

    To Ramanathan/ prashant and others - Let us give Ponting the respect he deserves. He was possibly the best batsmen of this decade (yepp Kallis, tendulkar, dravid and few others equally did well) - Ponting was possibly the most telling in both test and One day format.

    Like any great batsmen, there are these ordinary spells of form and obviously the tasks of picking up and re-shaping the Oz team is also affected his batting form. Only possible shortfall is that He could not emulate Border in re-configuring the oz team. for all india - let us wait and see how we rebuild after Tendulkar, dravid and Laxman in next 2-3 yrs. Once we can do that - we have right to comment on Ponting.

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