Ricky Ponting has captained Australia to an Ashes clean sweep and two World Cup triumphs but never has he been prouder of his players than after they wrapped up their series victory in South Africa. Leading a vastly inexperienced side that few expected to succeed, Ponting guided his men to wins in Johannesburg and Durban to ensure they held on to the world No. 1 Test ranking.
"I'm extremely proud of the players," Ponting said. "This is as happy as I've been in my whole career as an Australian player. This is a great achievement from this team, and I'm sure there will be a lot of people back home in Australia really proud of what the team has done."
Players like Phillip Hughes, Marcus North and Ben Hilfenhaus were untried at Test level before this tour while a string of other squad members were still making their names. Ponting said the win was "certainly right up there" with any of his other achievements in the Australia side, largely because they entered the series as underdogs following their defeat at home against South Africa.
"To be able to bounce back and win the way that we have here against a side that no one thought we could beat makes the achievement even more special for me," Ponting said. "World Cups are great, Ashes 06-07 was an amazing achievement to win that 5-0, bouncing back the same sort of way that we have now.
"I'm not putting it above any of those but if you look at our group of players, and you all did I know very carefully, that we were bringing away on this tour, there'll be a lot of people around the world who didn't think that this was achievable. So for us to have achieved what we have done over this week would make this win as special as any that I've been a part of."
Ponting has become used to being in charge of the world's No. 1 side over the past few years. South Africa took the top Test ranking only briefly in 2003 but Ponting said the ICC championship mace had been the furthest thing from his mind as this tour approached.
"I haven't mentioned the trophy once around this whole group because it's not the reason we play," Ponting said. "We play to win games of cricket for Australia and to do the best that we can for each other as a group of players. Whatever happens as a result of that, happens. If silverware comes your way then great, but that's not the reason that we play the game."
Australia will enter the third Test in Cape Town searching for a 3-0 result, the kind of clean sweep that used to be commonplace for Ponting's sides. Although some of their young bodies will be sore and sorry after back-to-back Tests, the squad has nine days to recover before the Newlands Test begins on Thursday March 19.