Monday, 20 February 2012
The most respectable of foes...
Just a quick word, then, on the axing of former captain Ricky Ponting from the Australian One Day International squad. 'Punter' is due to hold a press conference in Australia today, one in which the cricketing world will be hoping that the Tasmanian doesn’t decide that the time is right to bring the curtain down on the most illustrious of careers.
Australia’s most successful captain, highest run scorer, highest century maker, Ashes winner and twice world cup winner; the list of honours is exhaustive.
Ponting had, until recently, endured the most rotten spell in his lengthy cricketing career over the past 24 months. A string of failures with the bat and a comprehensive defeat on home soil to arch-enemies England led to a resignation of the captaincy, handing over the reins to long-time understudy Michael Clarke. Away from the burden of captaincy the lean patch continued; a situation that saw many an observer calling for his removal from the side entirely.
As far as cricketers go, Ponting is of the old school. A more tenacious character you would be hard pressed to find, and it was by this very virtue that one of Australia’s favourite sons clawed his way back in to something resembling the Punter of yore. It wasn’t easy, in fact at times it was all rather excruciating, but run by insipid run the old master compiled a painstaking 138-ball 62 during the fourth innings of the final Test against South Africa in Johannesburg to perhaps save his ailing Test career, and simultaneously prove any doubts to have been a touch premature.
In Australia’s most recent Test series, a sound 4-0 thrashing of the hapless India, Ponting confirmed that the old adage of ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ does indeed still ring true when returning a remarkable series average of 108.80. Punter was back to his infuriating best (from an Englishman’s point of view, at least).
Yet it is this irritating, waspish persona that us ‘Poms’ have grown to begrudgingly love. Yes, there have been the expletives aimed at the England balcony following his run-out dismissal by the infamous Gary Pratt during the 2005 Ashes and the foul mouthed tirades aimed at umpires when things haven’t quite gone Australia’s way, but we saw beyond all that. What we saw was an incessant will to win in what is the greatest event on the cricketing calendar – The Ashes. What we saw was an opposition captain that epitomised the true spirit of the Ashes, that utilised every ounce of his brilliance both as a masterful batsman and resplendent fielder to provide us with cricketing memories to last through the ages.
Few batsmen are akin to Ricky Ponting. Whether it be that trademark lunge at the ball as he began his innings, that gunshot sound as he pulled a ball to the boundary in dismissive fashion (one of the finest purveyors of the pull shot in living memory, I might add) or that rare ability to almost always provide when his country was in need; I’m thinking back to that incredible 159-ball 143 to complete a tight run chase against South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 2006, here.
As an Englishman, I can only hope that Ponting’s announcement later today is purely to inform us of his decision to retire from One Day International cricket forthwith, and that he plans to continue his epic journey inside the Test arena up to the 2013 Ashes series and perhaps beyond. I realise that may sound a little daft, given the seemingly endless occasions on which the flashing blade of Ricky Ponting has put England to the sword, but should he announce his retirement from all formats of cricket this evening one thing is for certain: the sport will be a lesser place for it.
Should he retire, he will have gone out on scores of 221 and 60 not out in his ultimate Test match; perhaps a fitting finale for a batsman of such genius. Whatever the outcome may be, thanks for the memories Ricky, and I hate to admit it but us Poms didn't just respect you, we actually liked you.