By Ricky Ponting’s own admission, his days of being a leading contributor with the bat for Australia were long gone.
Age might have caught up with Ponting’s eye, but the one thing that never faded was his presence around the dressing room.
Ponting’s leadership, coaching of younger players and unselfish attitude for the team has never waned.
Captain Michael Clarke and veteran Mike Hussey are the two remaining pillars of strength in the team, while Peter Siddle has emerged as a leader for the young group of fast bowlers.
Vice-captain Shane Watson is experienced, but spends a lot of time injured.
Coach Mickey Arthur says Ponting’s wideranging influence on the team is what Australia will find most difficult to overcome now the former skipper has retired.
“The aura he brings to the dressing room and his intensity around training and his cricket nous – we’ve got to find a way to fill that,” said Arthur.
“I’ve had a chat to a couple of other players. We need some of the other players to stand up now and fill that void.
“It was a very emotional day for the dressing room, really, with Ricky’s departure. That leaves a massive whole in the dressing room, not just in terms of his batting.”
South Africa’s emphatic series win sees them put a six-point gap on England and then Australia at the top of the world rankings.
Australia can move to second if England lose their Test series against India.
Arthur coached South Africa to series success in 2008-09 in Australia, and admits he was proud of his former players even though he sits on the other side of the fence.
“I still take a lot of interest in their performances,” Arthur said.
“I’m really gutted we didn’t beat them because this was a massive series.
“Personally, it would have been nice to get one over South Africa, but they’re a tremendous cricket team and I get a lot of pride in seeing those players play the way they’re playing now.
“I thought they showed us how to absorb pressure … and that’s the hallmark of a very good cricket team.
“There’s a sense of pride when I look at the job I did in the past, but my focus is very, very much on Australia and it will give me a lot of pride when, one day, we can hopefully topple them and get to No.1 as well.”