Exclusive: TGECF on Ricky Ponting

We will, of course, have full coverage of Ricky Ponting’s retirement from international cricket, not least because it’ll hopefully provide us with a veritable avalanche of pictures of him ‘looking upset’. Now though, our thoughts on Test cricket’s second most experienced pugilist.*

*After a certain Freddie Flintoff

Well, it had to happen sooner rather than later. The shots of Ricky Ponting slinking glumly back to the pavilion seem to have increased in their frequency of late. The whole concept of his being in the team but not captain seemed a little forced; a stopgap while Michael Clarke found his feet and a means of holding the fort while the next generation of Australian batsmen came through. However, unlike a certain diminutive Indian, Ricky has chosen to go out while his career still has some dignity.

It may surprise some of our regular readers to learn that we here at TGECF actually have a lot of respect for Ricky Ponting. Our constant ribbing of him is testament to that – it’s an attempt to deflect attention away from the fact that he is one of the great Australian batsmen of all time. The respect is somewhat grudging, as of course it should be from a Pom. We’ve never especially liked the Aussie attitude of all-out aggression which Ponting typifies, nor his occasional angry outbursts, but crikey could the guy bat. If it hadn’t been for a certain Mr Bradman, Ponting’s name would receive pretty careful consideration for the number 3 slot in an Australian all-time eleven.

However, it’s arguable (with hindsight) that he should have gone a year or two ago. The signs were there: in his last 52 Tests (the length, remember, of Bradman’s entire Test career) going back to 2008, Punter has averaged under 40. In his last 6, including the one being played at the moment, it’s only 17. One could say that this was selflessness; knowing that his mere presence in the team was of long-term benefit to the cause. Unlike Tendulkar, who each game looks more and more like the sad old dog that you know it’s only going to be a matter of time before you have to take to the vet for good, Ponting still had some fight in him; something to offer. He somehow seemed to fit into the Australian fold, even if the results with the bat weren’t there. Even now, his place is easier to justify than, say, Mitchell Johnson’s.

Ponting’s continued presence symbolised the hard-nosed, super-aggressive Aussie approach that made the team so successful for so long. Looking at the side now, with the exception of Peter Siddle, who has a certain Rottweiler-ish air about him, and perhaps Michael Clarke, this current Australia team don’t have that. Look at Ben Hilfenhaus, with his sad, Eeyore eyes, or Shane Watson, with his pretty-boy looks and supreme inability to convert fifties into hundreds. Someone like Ponting, or Hayden, or Gilchrist, or McGrath would grind your nose into the dirt and then stamp on your head for good measure. Until Australia get that back, they’ll be just another cricket team, instead of the fearsome beast they once were.

History will be kind to Ponting. His initial immaturity will be largely overlooked, his three Ashes’ defeats as captain a footnote. The cricketing annals will be lit up with tales of daring short-arm pull shots, defiant innings (such as at Old Trafford in 2005), crisp, easy cover drives and a never-say-die attitude. You could never say of him that he did not give every ounce of effort to the cause. He is one of those cricketers that I can say with pride that I have seen playing live. Rather as has cricket has forgotten Bradman’s selfish attitude and frequent spats with team-mates, so history will largely forget Ponting’s flaws.

So that’s as good as it gets from us. Something of a cricketing eulogy. If you want to read outright fawning, we suggest you go and consult the Sydney Morning Herald. We’ll just go back to gently poking fun at him in peace.

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