Ricky Ponting - Not on my list of legends
It was a nice gesture by the South Africans to give Ricky Ponting ‘a guard of honour’ as he walked down to the centre to play his final innings in international cricket. Another name gets added to the list of cricketers bidding adieu to the game. Most of us grew up watching the phenomenal performances of these jewels namely Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Courtney Walsh, Wasim Akram, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and a few more. Cricket will not be the same again. From the time I understood the game, I have always felt that Australia has been a powerhouse. They have given a lot many legends to this game. The name Ricky Ponting however fails to make it to that list for me.
I personally hated this man after the 2003 World Cup final. For once that day, I did wonder as to how can a batsman be so brutal and that too in a world cup final against my favourite team. The fact that the ruthless hammering led to the victory of the Kangaroos had sown the seeds of antagonism in me. I was into my early teens then. I was passionate only about team India and its accomplishments. Gradually, I changed. Not that I stopped bleeding blue, but I started understanding the game better. I developed love for cricket, yes pure cricket. I realized there’s a lot more than just winning and losing. I started enjoying good deliveries, good shots, commendable efforts in the field irrespective of which team or player was getting rewarded. It was this period when my animosity towards ‘Punter’ got dissolved.
On the chilly morning of January 3, 2005, I was observing the then Australian Skipper play textbook strokes all over the SCG against Pakistan. He went on to score a scintillating double century in that match. For the first time probably, I loved watching him play. This man was lethal in both formats of the game. He knew how to accelerate the scoring rate and at the same time had the skills to stick to the wicket for a long time. Consistency was the thing that I liked the most about him. As I saw more of his innings, I became fond of his batting techniques and soon a hardcore fan. For me, he was the best captain in the cricketing world. Australians looked invincible for a long period of time and Ponting played a major role in the dominance. The 2007 World Cup victory of Australia beating Sri lanka in the finals was an addition of another feather to his cap. An admirable batsman, aggressive captain.
But wait…there are a few dusky patches too.
The Sydney test match of Australia vs India will always stay in my memory, particularly Sourav Ganguly’s dismissal. Dada was looking comfortable facing the Australian bowling attack in the second innings. He scored 50 in the fourth innings in 56 balls with the help of 9 boundaries. He edged a delivery of Lee that went to Clarke in slips but had bounced before it was clutched. However Clarke started celebrating as soon as he had finished the “catch”. Ganguly was quite sure that the ball had bounced but umpire Benson (instead of consulting square leg umpire, Steve Bucknor) agreed to Ponting’s call.
The Australian skipper gave his word that the catch was legitimate and Ganguly had to walk back to the pavilion. Punter also went on to dash Indian journalists about “questioning his integrity” in a press conference. This however is not the only instance where Ricky showed the win-at-all-cost attitude. He did genuinely believe, a win is a win, whether by hook or by crook.
Ponting’s commitment to cricket is unquestionable. His batting is indeed exceptional. A skipper who worked hard for victories but at times, was least hesitant to get involved in unpleasant ways to achieve them. A legend, however is slightly different. Ricky Ponting knew how to win matches, but a legend knows how to win matches and hearts. From my point of view, a legend is someone who wins matches for his team consistently by hard work, dedication and takes care of the ‘spirit of the game’. Ponting had his own set of rules which do please a lot many but somewhere those rules tweak the fairness of the sport. He did win hearts with his batting but there remained a gap which was unfilled due to a few distasteful incidents. That is probably the only reason why the man is not in my list of legends. Nevertheless, someone who has scored more than 13000 runs each in both formats of the game deserves respect from people who love cricket in its purest form. Definitely amongst the finest batsman cricket has ever seen, epitome of success and leadership. A champion of the game. Take a bow, Punter.
And of course, I too will miss that pull shot.