Here’s the thing about Ricky Ponting. If you happen to have the slightest glance at his statistics, you’re probably going to spend the rest of the day having unnatural numbers flash intermittently appear before your eyes. However, as Indians, proud of our homebred batsmen and their glorious exploits around the world, Ponting is mere spittle to our vast cricketing knowledge. How can he be compared to our Rahul Dravid? And how DARE you speak of him in the same breath as Sachin Tendulkar! Blasphemy!
But yet, fifty years down the line, when we sit in our rocking chairs, fixing our moon-shaped spectacles and coughing our lungs to hell, we’ll reminisce cricket and curse ourselves if we commit the folly of not mentioning the man. His presence at the wicket wasn’t ominous. He didn’t attract standing ovations when he came out to bat, probably because half the crowd was busy tut-tutting his disposition. No, Ponting was not the greatest role model off the field, but his technicality and prowess with the bat is unparalleled, and it’ll be a long while before Australia can produce someone of such high quality batting, if ever. But we as Indians do not want to believe that.
Ponting was the bane of cricket as far as we were concerned. He forced decisions out of umpires, he had no respect for the elderly and almost always seemed to score runs against us. There was something treacherous about the man, and we could smell it from a mile away. Yet, we’d ignore an entire Australian innings, apart from the time Mr. Ponting was batting. Well, of course, only because we hated him so.
Our inability to grasp the notion that Ricky Ponting is a modern day legend stems from the fact that the rest of the universe compares him to whom we consider incomparable. Ponting was the Raavan to our Ram. While Sachin Tendulkar scored runs freely all around the world, Ricky Ponting matched him stroke for stroke, sometimes even surpassing the little master during certain periods of play. Sachin Tendulkar brings awe into the faces of his opponents. Ponting brought along fear. And that’s where the difference lies.
He was always there to just dampen our spirits and spoil Tendulkar’s little party. We’ll always remember this cricketing period as the Tendulkar Era, but Ponting will always be his arch-nemesis, scheming to bring him down and just falling short of succeeding every time. And it almost makes for a perfect finale when it is his retirement, not Dravid’s, not Laxman’s, not Strauss’, but his which increases the clamour surrounding Tendulkar’s.
The last year or so have been horrid for the both of them. They’ve struggled in both formats, Ponting even retired from limited over format to prolong his test career, and their cause for the team has often been questioned. Ponting took the brave decision and opted himself out, which only adds so much more pressure on Tendulkar, especially when there are so many youngsters waiting in the wings, prepared to face the big, bad world of cricket.
So many in this generation will probably be forgotten because of Sachin Tendulkar. His record speaks for not only himself, but an entire generation of cricketers. You don’t need anybody else to define how cricket is played today. But Ricky Ponting will poke his head out and bellow for attention. He’ll stand out amongst those who will be overshadowed by Tendulkar’s massive aura and even threaten to hijack that too.
There’s a large section of people who are firmly of the belief that he is a far superior batsman than Sachin Tendulkar. Strip yourself of your moral beliefs, your regional affinity, and your biased judgements, and poke yourself an eye of reason. You may just see it the way they do.