'All of us will miss Ricky' - Smith
Graeme Smith has declared Ricky Ponting the opponent he has most respected during his career, and said South Africa's forming a guard of honour for Ponting was never in doubt
Graeme Smith has declared Ricky Ponting the opponent he has most respected during his career, and said South Africa's forming a guard of honour for Ponting was never in doubt. The two men were opposing captains in 27 international matches, including some classic Tests, and met each other 41 times in total, and they shared a poignant moment as Ponting, while walking to the crease one last time, shook Smith's hand while the guard of honour was in place.
"It was just something that needed to be done," Smith said. "For me, having played against Ricky so much over the years he's certainly the player that I respect most that I've played against, for his intensity and the way he has played the game, the runs he has scored against us. He has always been so competitive. It was just a sign of respect from us for someone who has given the game of cricket so much.
"All of us will miss Ricky as an opponent. Hopefully now him and I can catch up for a beer. I'm sure a few of us would love to do that. Him and I have got to know each other fairly well over the last few years, whether it's sitting on planes or catching up after series. It will be nice to have that relaxed nature now and have some time together."
Although the South Africans came out on top in Ponting's farewell match, it wasn't always the case. Ponting scored eight Test centuries against South Africa and made 2132 runs against them, the most of any player in the modern era and behind only Denis Compton and Wally Hammond on the all-time list. Smith said there were a number of standout moments, and he noted that captaining against an in-form Ponting was nearly impossible. "I think there's a few innings in the early days [that I will remember]," Smith said. "We ended up winning the Test match, but the 100 and 99 in Melbourne on Boxing Day [in 2008], there was another time at the Wanderers when he got runs and the wicket went around all over the shop.
"There were moments when you thought it was really tough to bat and he just took the game to you and played in a way you haven't really seen other people play. The tempo with which he played the game as a batter, as a captain it was really interesting to try and manage. I wasn't part of it but I think that World Cup knock at the Wanderers has got to rank as one of the top ones that I have watched."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here