We all are familiar with Ricky Ponting, someone who needs hardly any special introduction. Not to mention that his batting abilities were second to none. There was a period between 2002 and 2006 when Ponting came closest to Bradman in terms of average scoring 5813 runs with a brilliant average of 74.52. One just can’t have any doubt about the capabilities of such a star. But good times come only to welcome bad times. Now, let’s take a look at some of the evidences.
A Poor run of Form:
41, DNB. 22, 6. 26, 0. 6, 66. 71, 4. 77, 72. 10, 51*. 0, 9. 12, 1. 10, 20. 44, 4. 48, 28. 8, 0. 0, 62. 78, DNB. 5, 16- It was Ponting’s performance in last 31 innings since he had scored his last century. The average, if we calculate, would turn out to be 27.48. The average seemed to be mediocre. And it does never show the caliber of the former Aussie captain. But, just like other 50-stories, it too had a back-story.
It was the December of 2009. Australia were playing the 3rd test against West Indies. The match was a decider one as Australia won the first match convincingly. And the second match was drawn.
The Short ball changed something:
After a good start from the openers the first wicket fell. And Ricky came to the crease. A young Kemar Roach of West Indian pace line up bowled a short ball. Ricky Ponting, well known for demolishing short balls, could not play the ball. He came to an awkward position and hurt himself in the elbow trying to leave the ball; the ball did hurt him a lot.
The batsman, who once used to instill fear among the bowlers, might have passed through a bad feeling. Initially Punter did not show any expression. He even hit a six with the help of pull shot. But eventually he had to retire hurt. Australia won the match as well as the series. But the question as to Ponting’s form remained.
Pakistan became the scapegoat:
Then Pakistan visited Australia. In the first two matches Ponting scored 57, 12, 0, 11 runs respectively. Of course, it was not up to the mark. However, the 3rd test began at Hobart, Ponting’s home ground.
Ponting came when it was 28 for 1. He played a hook shot of Mohammad Shami’s delivery. Mohammad Amir in the deep fine leg dropped, what’s called a lollipop catch. Now Punter got a life. Then the way he capitalized on it was phenomenal. He was a fearless player that was his greatest strength. Cricket is played fearlessly. He did it; not resisting himself from playing pull shots time and again.
Anything short and he would smash it to boundaries. Equally beautiful were his cuts and cover-drives through the offside. And when it came to the spinners, he never hesitated to play slog sweeps or hit the ball stepping out of crease. Bowlers were shouting “catch it, catch it!” But believe me nothing of those shots reached the fielders. It was an inning of pure class; a proper test innings and a captain’s knock too.
Welcome Back Ponting:
When he reached century one of the commentators raised their sound; “Welcome back to form!” Yes, the legend was back in form. Eventually as he reached double century there was an expression of relief among his parents and all the spectators out there. The home ground gave birth to a new Ponting! That is the character of a legend. Legends too fail but what they do best is they come back even stronger.
In an interview Ponting was asked what would have happened had the catch been taken that time? Ponting replied smiling that he would score a double century in the 2nd innings. Yes, that’s the confidence what makes a champion different from others.
Wasn’t only Tests, Ponting and ODI Cricket is fairytale story:
Whenever we talk about Ponting’s greatest ODI innings, the 2003 final innings comes automatically in our mind. A captain scoring an aggressive century to help his team win a crucial match is always special. And Ponting played such a Captain’s knock in the final of 2003 World Cup.
Aussie openers commenced the innings extremely well. After the fall of first wicket, Ponting came to the crease. Throughout the innings he took on Indian bowlers. He hit the pacers for boundaries and over boundaries. And he didn’t lose any occasion to step out and hit the spinners.
From a certain position of his innings, he scored very quickly and eventually reached to the three-figure mark. Damien Martyn, whose score was more than Ponting for a period, was crossed by Ponting.
Steve Bucknor again destroyed India:
There was a moment when Murali Kartik trapped the right-hander with leg before wicket. But the great Steve Bucknor, still the Indian’s nightmare, was not interested in giving it out. Ponting was 46* then. And he added 94 more runs in his innings to pile up a huge total that would challenge India hard.
However, it can easily be termed as one of the most important centuries in World Cup history. After all what can be better than a captain scoring century in a World Cup final and helps his team lift the trophy!
🏏 Over 27,000 international runs with 71 centuries
🏆 Three Cricket World Cup titles
⭐ ICC Hall of Fame inductee
Happy birthday Ricky Ponting, one of the best to grace the game 🎂 pic.twitter.com/HjPON58Q5N
— ICC (@ICC) December 18, 2021
Ponting, the leader, knows something the common people doesn’t:
In 2013, Ricky Ponting got the opportunity to captain Mumbai Indians in IPL. Ponting and Sachin were to open the innings for MI. It was a great opportunity for MI fans to see two of the greatest players of time open together. But time do cruel things. Aged Punter could not contribute much with the bat. In the first 5 innings he scored only 52 runs with a strike rate of 69.33- too bad to be in a franchise and specially as an overseas.
But champions have some qualities that make them different from others. Ponting at his own will decided to step down as a captain and not to play the upcoming matches. He promoted young Rohit Sharma the captaincy.
Ponting Knew Rohit’s Leadership abilities:
He guided Sharma to success. And MI won their first title in that year. And the rest is history. MI is now the most successful team in the history of IPL in terms of trophies.
“The first thing Ponting told me that when you are captaining you can’t be thinking about how you want them to do it”. Rohit said. “Always listen to them, take it in your stride and then filter it and give it to them. It was great learning for me when he was a part of Mumbai.” That’s the sign of a real champion.
A Hand on Pant’s shoulder:
That incident took place during the 2nd qualifier of IPL 2021; with a six over covers, Kolkatta inched past Delhi to the final; perhaps the young Delhi boys were feeling to be robbed off and the camera found a raw blooded leader Rishabh Pant with tears trying to deny the post-match presentation. There came Capital’s coach, the great Ricky Ponting; who in the past had faced those hard times.
Just a hand on Pant’s shoulder, some inaudible words and in a blink of an eye, Pant was answering the commentators; no one knew what Ponting said except the rookie Indian wicket-keeper. But the sentences were full of value.
The moral of the story was that even though he was a feisty character in playing days, he also was unaware of moments in the game; such a great analyst with a cunning head; someone who will be remembered not only for his batting but the way he used to maneuver the great Australian side.
Truly, he is and Legend, Leader and a Guide.