It’s all over. Seventeen years, 168 tests, 13, 378 runs, 287 innings, 41 hundreds and 196 catches later, Australian batsman and ex-captain Ricky ‘Punter’ Ponting finally bid farewell to international Test cricket.
In the pantheon of cricketing heroes, Ricky is an all-time great. A legend if you will, who will go down in cricket history as one of the best players Australia has ever produced.
He was an electrifying batsman with sheer raw talent who on many occasions tore his opposition apart and put them in their place, to a feeling of defeat and inferiority.
He was a leader. And a proud one too, who in every Test match led from the front and showed the world what it meant to him to wear that illustrious baggy green.
In his 17-year career, he became Australia’s highest ever run scorer and unquestionably a true immortal of the game.
From his humble beginnings, Ponting was always destined for greatness. As an 11-year old, the Launceston native showcased his passion for all sports playing many including AFL, basketball and soccer. However it was cricket where his biggest passion lied and at the mere age of 17 he made his first-class debut for Tasmania in a Sheffield Shield match, becoming the youngest ever Tasmanian to do so.
He then went on to make his international debut in 1995 during an ODI match against South Africa at the age of 21.
His Test debut however arrived a short time later in the 1995/6 series against Sri Lanka in Perth and since then he has never looked back. He loved representing his country and every time he took to the field you knew he was proud to be there.
He embraced his position as an Australian cricketer and this was displayed on the pitch, as he continually delivered time and time again, showcasing his ruthless displays of world class batting and exemplifying his talent as a standout performer.
Ricky was also a very competitive person and this became increasingly evident as his career went on. Always wanting to win, he made sure he did everything he possibly could to ensure that happened and that each and every one of his performances were up to both his and the rest of the country’s standards and expectations.
As a player with 41 hundreds and more than 13,000 test runs and an average of 51.85, he undoubtedly achieved a remarkable feat, becoming Australia’s highest ever run scorer and the second highest in Test history.
Renowned for his hook shots and cover drives, Ponting was a damaging player. He epitomised the golden generation of Australian Test cricket during the early 2000′s, scoring over 1000 runs in a calendar year on four occasions (2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006) and scoring a phenomenal 6,913 runs in that period.
As well as this, during his time as captain between 2004-2011, Ponting also had a 48-29 winning record, becoming one of the most successful captains of all time. During this period he also scored 14 hundreds. He is one of only three players in history to have scored more than 13,000 runs and the only cricketer to be involved in 100 Test victories.
Yet although flourishing in his career, many critics have shown their disappointment in the ex-captain, in particular for his early off-field antics, which saw him dropped from the side for a short time in early 1999, but more recently for his poor tactics during the mid to late 2000′s when Australia lost three Ashes series under his tenure.
Being the first captain to do this, these losses took a huge toll on Ponting and have haunted him ever since. However it’s important to remember that these defeats came at a time when not only were many of Australia’s greats retiring and the team was in a transition period, but England were also on the ascendency, eventually reaching the world number one spot in 2011.
Therefore criticism of his captaincy and poor leadership skills may be rather harsh, especially considering all the greatness he had achieved prior to this decline.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Ricky Ponting, who has had his fair share of ups and downs, seeing him give up the captaincy in 2011. But after seventeen turbulent years it has finally come to an end.
With scores of only 4 and 8 in his final Test match this week and a run total of only 600 for 2012, it’s been a rather disappointing end. However his accolades throughout his glorious career have more than proven that he is a great of the game and will be irreplaceable within the Australian Test side.
Thank you Ricky for all you efforts and throughout the last seventeen years. You have done wonders for the sport in Australia and have captured the hearts of many around the world. Good luck with your all your future endeavours, you certainly deserve all the great things that come your way.