About time, too. In the end, Ricky Ponting didn’t so much fall upon his sword as trip over it and watch helplessly as his career slowly bled to death.

Happier days… but Ponting's run supply is no longer in the pink. Pic: Gregg Porteous

Ponting was our best bat since Bradman. Still is, despite Michael Clarke’s run-soaked year. But the Tasmanian’s first innings dismissal in Adelaide said it all. Not only had his once steady flow of runs dried up. Now his dignity was failing him too.

Ponting has just held his departing press conference ahead of his final Test commencing in Perth tomorrow. The last time he called a presser was in February to announce his retirement from One Day cricket. He hoped that would prolong his Test career. Wasn’t to be.

Ponting is almost 38 and has struggled in all forms of international cricket for some time now. His double century against India in Adelaide last summer kept the vultures at bay. But in nine innings after that Test, he has added just 166 runs at an average of 18. It wasn’t nearly enough runs.

And so, a legend comes full circle. Ponting will finish his Test career in Perth, where it all began 17 years ago against Sri Lanka, He made 96 that December day, and was unlucky to be given a dodgy lbw decision when just one boundary short of a century.

Missing the milestone didn’t matter. From that very first Test, it was obvious that Ponting belonged at the highest level. Most Australian batsmen get their first taste of the baggy green in their mid 20s. Ponting was just 20.

Ricky Ponting played in a golden generation of Australian batsmen that included the likes of the Waughs, Hayden, Gilchrist, Martyn, Langer, Hussey and Clarke – and he topped them all on the raw statistical measures of both average and aggregate. Also, unlike most of the batsmen just named, he was never dropped for a prolonged period.

But stats only tell half the story of his class. Watching Ponting in his prime was like having shares in banks. You just knew he’d pay dividends. When Australia needed a captain’s knock in the biggest match of all, Ponting belted a huge century in the 2003 World Cup final. When his 100th Test came round, he swatted twin hundreds to remind everyone why he’d played so many matches.

Like many of the greats, Ponting was not tall. But he was lithe and perfectly balanced at the crease. No batsman ever played the pull shot better. It is a shot where for a split second the batsman is face to face with a ball coming straight at his chin. In that micro-moment, he must commit and follow through with a calculated brutality.

And boy, did he do that. The Ponting pull shot is as timeless an image of Australian batsmanship as the Bradman cover drive. Michael Clarke plays the pull shot himself rather well these days, but Ponting did it sublimely for a decade and a half.

If Ponting had a technical weakness, it was his tendency to shuffle across the crease and dangle his bat a little early in his stay. He was always a candidate for getting out early and cheaply. Ponting has made 17 ducks in his 285 Test innings. By contrast, his great Indian contemporary Sachin Tendulkar has made 14 ducks from 317 innings.

His other weakness was as a captain. Ricky Ponting captained more Test wins than any other man, and was in charge of a team that went on a 16 match winning rampage that equalled Steve Waugh’s record.

For all those wins, and for all the saliva he expectorated on his fielding fingers in plotting the opposition’s downfall from the field, Ricky Ponting never quite had the intuition of his predecessors or his successor. He wasn’t a bad captain. But he wasn’t a brilliant tactician like Mark Taylor. Neither can he boast the legacy of young players who flourished under his leadership a la Steve Waugh.

Plus Ponting lost the Ashes twice. He won an Ashes series 5-0 in between those two losses too, but the fact remains, he captained losing Ashes teams both here and in England. It’s harsh, it’s unquestionably unfair, but in the eyes so many Australians, Ponting’s legacy begins and ends with those two series.

He knew it too. He wouldn’t admit it but he knew it. That’s why he was so desperate to push on till later this year and beat England in England. It wouldn’t have erased his losses as captain, but oh, it would have been sweet.

Alas, he won’t get the chance. Whether it was his eyes or his footwork or his concentration that let him down, we may never know. It’s true, too, that there is no candidate banging down the door to replace him. Doesn’t matter. None of it matters. All that matters is that Ricky Ponting hasn’t looked like the old Ricky Ponting for some time now.

Ponting has done the right thing quitting today. He will tie Steve Waugh’s record for the most Tests ever by an Australian (168). It may not be quite the magnanimous gesture Mark Taylor made when he declared on 334 not out in deference to Sir Donald Bradman’s then Australian record, but it leaves a lovely symmetry nonetheless.

The brilliant batsman and the steely-eyed warrior are now statistically welded together forever as symbols of Australia’s greatest ever period of sustained world dominance – a period to which they both made huge and unforgettable contributions.

Thanks, Ricky. And please, don’t dangle that bat against Dale Steyn this weekend because we still need you one last time.

Twitter: @antsharwood

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST Thursday and will reopen at 6am Friday

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46 comments

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    • bretto80 says:

      03:22pm | 29/11/12

      A backhanded tribute if ever there was one. The first and last sentences of this article are unnecessary and show the immaturity of Anthony Sharwood.

      Ponting may have hung on too long but he, like all of us, did so in the hope that he could get back what he’d lost. Whether it be dwindling fitness, souring relationships or failing intellect we all hope that we can do whatever we can to get it back. Some people commend others for trying and others, like Sharwood, put the boot in.

      Ponting has always given his very best for his country and has an amazing record, that’ll do me. He retires as one of the greats. Sorry that you’ll never come close, Anthony…

    • SM says:

      03:40pm | 29/11/12

      Couldn’t agree more.  I generally like your work Anthony, but the first paragraph of this piece, in particular, is disgraceful.  Show some respect

    • Greg says:

      04:03pm | 29/11/12

      Agree, first paragraph is very disrespectful,  much the same as your piece of why Ponting has to go, who made you the expert Andrew.  I agree with Campese, if you haven’t played the sport at an elite level then you should not be making comments, leave the back yard analysis to the rest of us mate.

    • Greg says:

      04:08pm | 29/11/12

      I have to agree. It is like a different person wrote the opening and closing paragraphs, compared to the rest.

      And it would be a bitter, resentful person too, with no similar record of achievement.

      I suspect that the Punch just has an editorial policy of never allowing an unqualified tribute to a white, Anglo, heterosexual male, unless he has far left wing political credentials.

    • Philosopher says:

      04:09pm | 29/11/12

      ‘The brilliant batsman and the steely-eyed warrior’
      ‘a legend comes full circle’
      ‘our best bat since Bradman’

      Yes brett80, Sharwood’s article is pretty much defamatory, and I hope no lawyer looks it over. I think you’ve been hit in the head too many times with a hard leather ball.

    • bretto80 says:

      04:30pm | 29/11/12

      Philosopher, after reading your comment below I’m confused. You say you don’t like Ponting because he plays cricket and then you go through the article looking for the positives about the man. Was all of that so you could attempt some humour at the end of your post? If so then troll on brother, the asylum’s not full yet.

    • Philosopher says:

      04:41pm | 29/11/12

      bretto80, if trolling means being disingenuous, then I have never trolled. However if I see something absurd posted, such as your puzzling attack on the tone of this article, then I will attempt to point out the absurdity. Having said that, yes I hate cricket. I was always frightened of the ball at school.

    • Go Ricky says:

      08:18am | 30/11/12

      I agree with you Bretto80…well said.

      I also think the title of the article is a little ordinary.

      Whilst the last couple of years havent been his best…it has not been from lack of effort. He had done enough during his career to deserve some extra time.

      Ricky will retire as a champion…I wish him all the best for his last test match.

    • SZF says:

      08:34am | 30/11/12

      “Backhanded”? Hardly. Ant - and plenty of other commentators out there - have been saying the same thing about Ponting for the past 18 months: an all-time great with the bat and in the field, but an average captain and perhaps should have made the call to retire last summer.

      I’d have thought that if Ant hadn’t maintained his previous stance it would have smacked of hypocrisy. Let’s not all sit around a campfire singing the Eulogy Song…

    • Phil Ryan says:

      03:22pm | 29/11/12

      Good stuff Mr Sharwood. Ricky should have retired after that double ton. Go out a winner and all that. But boy was he a master in his time. Thanks for the memories, Punter.

    • Macca says:

      03:41pm | 29/11/12

      Ponting’s biggest weakness wasn’t so much dangling the bat, as it was going so hard at the ball early in his innings.

      Unlike many top-order test batsmen, who play with soft hands and wait for ball to come to bat (think Dravid, Cowan, Langer, Amla), Ponting simply attacked. Relentlessly.

      This meant he had a habit of playing the ball in front of his pads (and getting out LBW when he missed it), or reaching for it (and being caught behind), as Ant described.

      He simply had an eye that allowed him to compensate for these (slight) flaws in his technique. Compensate is probably a bit of an understatement, given the brutality in which he destroyed attacks.

      But the mantle has long passed. We’ll fondly remember his dominance, but younger hands are to ply their trade in his place. They just won’t emulate his record or style.

    • I hate pies says:

      11:01am | 30/11/12

      His weaknesses was confounded by falling across his crease early on - that’s why he’s get out LBW early. Once his eye was in he’d smack the same ball to the fence.
      It’s a sad time for Australian cricket, because Ricky is the last from our golden era to retire. Hopefully, with the bowling stocks we’re building up, there will be a new golden era soon…geez I miss Shane and Gilly

    • James says:

      03:51pm | 29/11/12

      Our best ever batsmen. A couple of points… 1) Michael Clarke doesn’t play the pull shot well. 2) Ponting was at least the equal of Steve Waugh as a Captain… and had a better win % before the retirement of McGrath and Warne. Quite simply when it comes down to it (Brisbane and more pertinently Adelaide should prove a reminder) you won’t often win test matches without an attack that can take 20 wickets. He didn’t have that. Set any field, bowl any part timer good batting line ups require sustained good bowling to get them out. With Warne, McGrath, Gilly and Ponting gone all links to that golden era pass. I look forward to the next generation coming through, but I think it could be a while before we see competitors the likes of Ponting and Warne.

      Thanks for the memories.

    • pa_kelvin says:

      03:52pm | 29/11/12

      Ant ..you haven’t had this article ready for the last few years just ready to push the right button have you ??
      Ponting Retires…YYAAAAYYYYY *push button*  smile

    • Jaguar says:

      03:54pm | 29/11/12

      And hack writing from clueless media like yourself have piled pressure on one of Australia’s greats for several years now. Back in your box, Sharwood, you have no idea.

    • Philosopher says:

      03:57pm | 29/11/12

      I never liked Ricky Ponting. Why? Because he plays cricket. Speaks volumes about his character, none of it flattering.

    • hammy says:

      04:09pm | 29/11/12

      I never liked Philosophers.  Why? Because they have no real job.  Speaks volumes about their character, none of it flattering.

    • Ben says:

      04:13pm | 29/11/12

      But you use the pretentious title of “Philosopher’, hence you’re not averse to having a bat yourself, although of a less noble variety.

    • Greg says:

      04:17pm | 29/11/12

      But you managed to read a cricket article and thought the rest of Australia wanted to listen to what you have to say on the matter. Odds on you were bullied at school, didn’t play sport cause mummy didn’t let you and are now an artist.

    • Quambie says:

      04:23pm | 29/11/12

      @Philospher.  Whatever planet you are visiting from, please return there as soon as possible.  You have overstayed your welcome.

    • Philosopher says:

      04:28pm | 29/11/12

      ... and another thing about cricket lovers, they have no sense of humour. I would imagine all that time spent waiting in the sun for something to happen, would have the effect of leaching subtle emotions from their psyche.

      I see it on tv and feel my mind opening into a yawning chasm of tedium-induced terror.

    • Trev says:

      08:58am | 30/11/12

      Yes @Philosopher, I’m sure you prefer to get your fill of “tedium-induced horror” from some critically acclaimed, but ultimately pointless and boring arthouse film or underground one-man performance art piece, and then congratulate yourself on how cultured you are, and how much more worthwhile your life is than everyone elses.

      There’s a reason sport is popular, and it’s because it entertains the majority of people. If you choose to place yourself outside the majority, and think that makes you special, then feel free to do so, but don’t push your self-important views down everyone else’s throats.

    • Philosopher says:

      09:57am | 30/11/12

      Harsh Trev. First of all, my post was a bit tongue-in-cheek. Second, I can’t help not liking most mainstream sports, it’s not a conscious choice and in fact it has been more of a social hindrance than anything else. Third, my taste in movies and music tends towards the violent, the confronting and the extreme. If it is directed by Woody Allen or Jim Jarmusch, you won’t find this little black pup lining up.

    • Tim says:

      03:59pm | 29/11/12

      Love the Punter,
      hope he goes out with a big score in Perth.

      What an absolute champion!!!

    • TestCricketLover says:

      04:03pm | 29/11/12

      Ponting still has one of the best, safest pair of catching hands in the business, and is as sharp -eyed as a hawk in the field, with unbelievable agility and speed. I’ll miss that more than his batting, which was scintillating at his best.

      Happy retirement Punter, you’ve earned it.  Glad you pulled up stumps now.  Your achievements will always be remembered by those who watched you in your pomp.

    • Nick says:

      04:04pm | 29/11/12

      Perhaps Ponting is a cricketer’s cricketer.  He’s a major reason why I stopped following cricket and nowadays consider an interest in the game a character flaw. Clarke is another - how can anybody get excited by that show pony?  Ponting and his teams seemed phenomenally boring compared to the Border through to Waugh eras.  He always seemed to be riding on the efforts of others and I’m astonished to read the headlines saying he is the best Australian batsman since Bradman.  You learn something every day and I should reconsider I guess.

      A minor aside, but are ducks really the best measure of a top order batman’s tendency to get out early?  Surely scores under 20 or something would be far mor revealing?

    • Show Some Respect says:

      04:06pm | 29/11/12

      Well done Sharwood you hack, that is the most backhanded tribute to one of the all-time Australian legends of cricket, and of any sport for that matter. Back to driving taxis, flog.

    • Alastair Cook says:

      04:14pm | 29/11/12

      Great player…  Brutal at his best..  defo flaws in his character which often manifested itself in ugly situations on the field, however, this was partly down to his fighting spirit and the character of the team he walked into.

      As James pointed out…  he had to oversee a transition from the likes of McGrath and Warne to the likes of Johnson and Beer…  no captain regardless of how tactically astute they were would ever be able to keep up sustained success going from an all-time great bowling attack to the keystone cops he had at his disposal in 2010.

    • The Bourbon n Beefsteak says:

      04:27pm | 29/11/12

      Great news!!

    • testfest says:

      02:29pm | 30/11/12

      I admit I laughed quite a bit when I read your screen name.

    • JohnT says:

      04:57pm | 29/11/12

      Terrible article. What sort of tribute is this? Very little tact and respect, not to mention cricket insight.

    • Pudel says:

      05:44pm | 29/11/12

      I always admired Ponting, he was a great cricketer, but the thing that always made me think ery highly of Ponting was how he grew into such a good man in front of Australia.  In his early days his off field behavior was not exemplary, yet he put his barroom brawls behind him and became a husband, father and captain we could be proud of.  Basically he grew up well, which is very hard to do in the public eye.

    • Kathy R says:

      05:58pm | 29/11/12

      I was going to comment but I remembered in time that #girls shouldn’t comment on sport if they haven’t played it!
      So all I will say is “Thanks for the good memories Ricky Ponting” and like Ant I hope the last one will be a great 2 innings so Aust can win against those very talented ‘Seth Africens’.
      Bring on the game tomorrow.

    • Alan of perth says:

      06:42pm | 29/11/12

      Today is a day to pay your respects to a brilliant cricketer, sure we all have been recently watching each innings of Punter’s and been hoping we will see that magic again. Shame on you Sharwood for starting your article with such a derogatory paragraph. You have definitely lost a lot of respect from your readers today. I hope he goes out in a blaze of glory, although the pitch may not be helpful.

    • neil says:

      06:42pm | 29/11/12

      Can’t help but feel that this is a little premature.

      Are there really 8~10 better batsman/fielder/catcher/strategists in Australia today? I doubt it.

      And you need at least that many to get through a season.

    • jimbo says:

      07:00am | 30/11/12

      I don’t think Ponting will be upset with what a second rate hack has to say about him on the Punch.

    • Tork says:

      07:37am | 30/11/12

      As with all our cricketers, their names are dragged through the dirt when they don’t perfom towards the end of their career.  They then announce their retirement and everyone hails them.

      Stupid, isn’t it?  Onya punter. great career!

    • Peter Lewis says:

      08:21am | 30/11/12

      Sharwood when you fail to spoon your Kellogs into your mouth you’re recognised for what you are. Cheap shot at arguably the best batsman Australia has been blessed with. Did you prattle the same ridiculous sentiments with Warnie? Thanks for the great times Punter, a little tear from me for your greatness.

    • lostinperth says:

      08:57am | 30/11/12

      There’s some hard markers here today. I thought it was a good article Ant, and anyone who cares about cricket and has watched Ponting struggle for the last 18 months would think that Ants first paragraph rather apt.

      Ponting himself says that he can no longer play at the level he wanted to. Much as he wanted another Ashes, it was not possible. He leaves as one of our best ever cricketers and I hope he makes runs in Perth.

    • Mahhrat says:

      09:00am | 30/11/12

      The thing that’ll stay with me must be the utter terror in the hearts of every international Captain once Ponting hit about 20 runs.

      If he got in…he wasn’t getting out.

      That ‘early’ vulnerability would pass, and he was simply the best batsman on the planet.  Period.  You couldn’t bowl to him, it wouldn’t matter.

      Back that up with one of the best fielding skillsets you’ll ever see?  Greatness.

      Hall of Fame shoe-in, well done Punter.

      If ony you weren’t from up north…

    • Jenni says:

      09:12am | 30/11/12

      Get over youselves, Ant bashers. This article struck the perfect valedictory note. Too often retiring Auststralian sportsmen are lavished with saccharine one-eyed encomiums with any leavening realism entirely left out. This is great, and pays ample respect to Ponting’s achievements.
      Sometimes I think you guys are just jealous of the platform Ant has for his views.

    • bretto80 says:

      09:28am | 30/11/12

      I’m more jealous of all of the spare time you have in front of a thesaurus…

    • Peter Lewis says:

      09:56am | 30/11/12

      Who is A .Sharwood Jenni? I know who Punter isI As for being jealous? We all can’t bat at number three for Australia with such distinction. In the words of a great philosopher, “to be or not to be” is not the question, its how well you do it!
      Let the final chapter of a great career begin, good luck Punter.

    • Philosopher says:

      10:17am | 30/11/12

      Who is A. Sharwood? Well, he’s a journalist and sports commentator, he gets paid to provide an objective review of sportsmen. Objective: this means discussing the less favourable aspects as well as the favourable, and columnists are required to be a bit controversial. Sort of like journo’s from the Australian writing about our Prime Minister, innit?

      Jenni, encomium? I had to look that up! Beam!

    • Nick says:

      11:16am | 30/11/12

      I don’t get all the attack dogs going off half cocked either.  It seemed like a pretty generous article to me.

 

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