The old saying goes, “all good things have to come to an end.” Ricky Ponting was good, very good, in fact he was a great.
For Ponting the end is nigh. When he walks out at the WACA on Friday morning, it will be his 168th and final Test, a career that has seen him claim 108 Test victories, with 48 of those as captain.
You can’t help but hope for a fairytale ending for Ponting. How about a hundred in his final match at a ground where it all began for him in 1995 and a victory over South Africa that would lift his side back to number one in the ICC Test Rankings – it would be a fitting end to a glorious career.
After announcing his retirement, Ponting said that he wanted to win his final match more than any other game he has ever played. The drive and determination is still there, but unfortunately for Punter, age has finally caught up with him.
It seemed the Australian selectors were willing to grant Ponting his one last wish and final frontier – an Ashes series on English soil, but in sport things don’t always pan out the way you want them to.
Recently reading a Sidharth Monga article on espncricinfo.com, I picked up on this wonderful quote on Sachin Tendulkar’s ongoing struggles:
“People are struggling to come to terms with his mortality. They want him to retire because they want to live with happier memories. That’s selfish.”
It made me realise that I had thought this about Ponting. As a big fan of his, I wanted him to go on and reclaim the Ashes in England, but I didn’t want him to continue to struggle and look a part of his former self. That Jacques Kallis ball that dismissed him in Adelaide wasn’t what I wanted to remember him by, but instead the slight of him bringing up another Test century with a crisp drive through the covers.
We all have to realise that our favourite players can’t go on to play at their best forever, there has to be a time when we have to respect the timing of a players retirement, after all only the player himself knows, when to make that difficult call.
For all of this I think Ponting picked the right time to hang up his bat and depart from the game. He has been in inconsistent form over the past 18 months, but if it wasn’t for his mental input on the side and his determination to work hard, then Michael Clarke’s men wouldn’t be vying for the Test mace right now.
Although Clarke has led the side through their rebuilding process, he has still relied heavily on the likes of Ponting and Mike Hussey as his go to men. There is no way Australia could have let Ponting and Hussey depart from the side after the retirements of key players such as Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer and to a lesser extent Brett Lee and Simon Katich – all in the past six years.
Ponting is a once in a generation player, only Greg Chappell can rival him as Australia’s best batsman since Sir Donald Bradman, players like this don’t come around very often. For over a decade Ponting was the best batsman in the world’s best team.
His stats are overshadowed by no Australian bar Bradman. His 13,366 runs are more than any of his compatriots ever managed as are his 41 Test hundreds and his final Test appearance at Perth will equal Steve Waugh’s haul of 168.
In ODI cricket his three World Cup victories – with two as captain stand out, as does his 30 ODI centuries.
So after 17 years of service to the Baggy Green, it’s time to say farewell Punter, I hope you do a Steve Waugh and bow out the way we all want you to with your side back on top of the world, but if not we will remember the stroke play, dedication and passion that you brought to Cricket Australia during its most successful period.