The story is told that near the turn of the century - 19th to 20th - Dr WG Grace asked to see Victor Trumper's bat and promptly wrote on it, "From the current champion to the future champion," and then signed the piece of willow.
Despite the self-anointment - WG didn't need such modern aids as a computer ranking to confirm his greatness - Grace's prediction was soon confirmed by the dazzling strokeplay of Trumper. Minus the self-aggrandisement, we may have glimpsed a potential modern-day changing of the guard in the last few days.
Ricky Ponting has long been considered the master of the willow wielders. He attained this lofty status even with the presence of Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, both of whom vied for the title from the days when the young Australian was only a glint in the eye of Academy head coach Rod Marsh. Judging by the cool approach and precise shot-making of Cape Cobras' JP Duminy in the opening Champions League match, he's the young batsman most likely to usurp Ponting's title. That would be an appropriate juxtaposition: an Australian bestowing the title on a man who is known for his batting prowess and by his initials.
Duminy announced himself to the world in Perth
last year, when as a late replacement for the injured Ashwell Prince he played a convincing part in a mammoth, successful South African run-chase. Not content with a debut half-century in a remarkable South African victory, he followed up with a game-winning hundred at the MCG
, as the team clinched a historic first-ever series win in Australia.
Such a confident start to a Test career against the number one team in the world spoke volumes for his skill and temperament. It's worth noting that Ponting announced himself in a similarly spectacular fashion, also in Perth
, even if it was against slightly less talented opposition - a moderate Sri Lankan side.
He scored an impressive 96 before an atrocious umpiring decision robbed him of a century on debut. Since then it has been onwards and upwards in terms of both performance and centuries and he now trails only Tendulkar, with 38 Test hundreds to his name.
Like the past batting masters, Duminy doesn't waste time tinkering with frivolous shots and scores most of his limited-overs runs from traditional cricket strokes
While Duminy is yet to add to his MCG Test century, he has shown enough in all three forms of the game to suggest he's the blueprint for 21st-century batsman. Despite limited opportunities batting in the middle order in the short versions of the game, he's made enough runs in tough situations to confirm his talent, technique and temperament are all adaptable. Given an extended opportunity to express his talent against the Bangalore Royal Challengers
in a hostile environment, he did so in convincing fashion. If ever an innings deserved to be punctuated by a century, Duminy's effort did; but he was denied not by the bowlers but by his own rapid run-rate.
Unlike Ponting and both Tendulkar and Lara, Duminy is slightly suspect against the short-pitched ball. Normally this can lead to a curtailed career, but in Duminy's case he has been quick to adapt to the demands of international cricket and should quickly eradicate this shortcoming. Like Tendulkar, Duminy possesses all the requirements for a Test career at number four, and eventually he'll probably emulate Ponting in the shorter versions of the game by batting at three.
In keeping with the modern demands for fast scoring Duminy's batting relies more on aggression and less on technique. There's every chance that in the hustle and bustle of the modern game, well-equipped batsmen like Tendulkar and Ponting - who can both counter-attack and survive tough periods - will go the way of the steam engine. Nevertheless, like the past batting masters, Duminy doesn't waste time tinkering with frivolous shots and scores most of his limited-overs runs from traditional cricket strokes. In the modern tradition he has the strength to clear the boundary with the bulk of his copybook cricket shots.
Judging by his superb Champions Trophy form Ponting is in no rush to abdicate his throne. The way Duminy has commenced his Champions League campaign, he may be about to elevate his game to another level. Lately, the word "champion" has been in vogue, but it's not overstating the case to say we're privileged to be watching two batsmen of that ilk, one current and the other future.