Ponting to re­tire af­ter Perth Test

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As emo­tional as any­one has ever seen him, Ricky Ponting lost his cus­tom­ary com­po­sure when telling team­mates of his de­ci­sion to re­tire from in­ter­na­tional cricket on the eve of the third Test against South Africa in Perth.

For so long the stony-faced em­bod­i­ment of Aus­tralian cricket, Ponting and other mem­bers of the squad wept as they came to terms with the fact a Test ca­reer that be­gan at the WACA ground in 1995 would end at the same ground 17 years later. "I tried to tell them a lot, but I didn't get much out," Ponting said. "As I said to the boys this morn­ing, they've never seen me emo­tional, but I was this morn­ing."

If the de­ci­sion drew a pre­vi­ously un­seen well of feel­ing from within Ponting, its rea­sons were coldly log­i­cal and team-ori­ented. Af­ter fail­ing twice with the bat in Ade­laide and thrice in this se­ries, hav­ing given him- self the best pos­si­ble lead-in via domestic cricket Ponting con­cluded that he was no longer good enough to per­form at the level he pre­ferred. For so long Ponting's watch­word had been con­sis­tency - now he spoke rue­fully of "con­sis­tent fail­ure".

Other con­sid­er­a­tions in­cluded choos­ing the best cir­cum­stances in which to al­low his suc­ces­sor in the bat­ting or­der to get started, a ques­tion Ponting had also pon­dered when hand­ing over the cap­taincy to Clarke in 2011. As be­fit­ted a man whose proud­est ca­reer achieve­ment is to have played in more Test wins than any other crick­eter, Ponting was also keen for the an­nounce­ment to in­spire, not over­shadow, Aus­tralia's tilt at the world No. 1 rank­ing in this match.

"It's a de­ci­sion I thought long and hard about, put in long con­sid­er­a­tion about the de­ci­sion, at the end of the day it was about my re­sults and my out­put in this se­ries so far," Ponting said. "It hasn't been to the level re­quired for bats­men and play­ers in the Aus­tralian team. My level of per­for­mance hasn't been good enough.

"I want to be a con­sis­tent per­former, and if you look back over the last 12 or 18 months I haven't been able to per­form con­sis­tently. I've had mo­ments of really good stuff, and pro­longed mo­ments of cricket that's been be­low my ex­pec­ta­tions and be­low a par level for me, so there hasn't been one dis­missal or one moment, it's just been in my own eyes rea­son­ably con­sis­tent fail­ure. That's why I be­lieve the time is right now to be mak­ing this de­ci­sion."

Fol­low­ing a poor start to the Test se­ries with low scores in Bris­bane and Ade­laide, Ponting said he was trou­bled by the "ten­ta­tive" man­ner of his dis­missals. In Ade­laide he was bowled twice in the same match for only the sec­ond time in a ca­reer that be­gan in 1995. That dou­ble was the cat­a­lyst for a typ­i­cally frank in­ter­view with his first Test cap­tain Mark Tay­lor on Chan­nel Nine on the fourth morn­ing in Ade­laide, in which Ponting said he was soon to be dis­cussing his fu­ture with the se­lec­tors. Dis­cus­sions about re­tire­ment com­menced dur­ing the Test, though Ponting said he al­ways re­tained the sup­port of the se­lec­tors, and made the call him­self.

"I be­lieve so, there's been all sorts of things in the pa­pers the last cou­ple of days and I know cer­tainly with my cap­tain and my coach I couldn't have had any more sup­port from those guys," Ponting said. "They've been the ones who've been most ver­bal about their sup­port "This is not a de­ci­sion that's been made by the se­lec­tors, this a de­ci­sion that's been made by me, and I'd like to thank all those guys for the sup­port they've given me over the last 12 months. There were prob­a­bly mo­ments when they thought long and hard about end­ing my ca­reer and I'm glad I've got the op­por­tu­nity to fin­ish this way and on my terms."

The ef­fect of Ponting's re­tire­ment was writ large across the red eyes of the cap­tain, Michael Clarke. In sum­ming up the few days lead­ing up to the an­nounce­ment, Clarke be­came so teary that he re­called the welling up of emo­tion that ac­com­pa­nied Kim Hughes' exit as cap­tain in 1984. While the rea­sons were en­tirely dif­fer­ent, the feel­ing was equally strong - Clarke could not an­swer an­other ques­tion about his team-mate, friend and pre­de­ces­sor as cap­tain.

"I didn't have a feel­ing it was coming," Clarke said. "Ricky spoke to me af­ter the Ade­laide Test match and made his de­ci­sion I guess over the last few days. The boys are ob­vi­ously hurt­ing at the moment. He's been an amaz­ing player for a long time. [Deep breath and starts to tear up]… and that'll do me for to­day. Sorry, I can't an­swer that."

Ponting will play out the domestic sea­son for Tas­ma­nia and the Ho­bart Hur­ri­canes in the BBL. He does not yet know what will be ahead of him be­yond the sum­mer, but ges­tured to­wards his wife Rianna and chil­dren when queried about what the fu­ture held.

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