TRIED, TESTED, FI­NALLY RESTED

An in­tim­i­dat­ing bats­man, a feisty cap­tain, an ag­gres­sive fielder. In Ricky Ponting, Aus­tralia had a leader who’d stop at noth­ing to claim the top spot, says SURESH MENON

Tehelka - - SPORTS -

AF­TER MAK­ING an­at­tack­ing­70­in the­Bengaluru­Test a­cou­ple­of­years ago,­Ricky­Ponting­as­sumed full­re­spon­si­bil­ity­for­Aus­tralia­los­ing­the­match.­“I should­have­made­a­dou­ble cen­tury.­A­70­is­not­good enough,”­he­said.­Ponting­av­er­aged­56­for­the­se­ries,­but felt­he­had­let­the­team­down as­In­dia­won­2-0.­That­prob­a­bly­re­vealed­more­about­the bats­man­than­his­famed­cover drive­or­ar­ro­gant­pull­shot.­It also­showed­why­he­fin­ished as­the­most­suc­cess­ful­cap­tain­(48­vic­to­ries)­and­player (108­wins)­in­Test­cricket. Ponting­was,­in­a­sense, ­im­per­vi­ous­to­crit­i­cism­for­no one­was­as­harsh­on­him­as­he him­self­was.

With­over­13,000­runs­in ei­ther­form­of­the­game­— he was­no­great­fan­of­the­third for­mat­— Ponting’s­place­in the­pan­theon­is­se­cure. ­Only Sachin­Ten­dulkar­has­scored more­and­over­a­longer­pe­riod­of­time.­Fin­ish­ing­on­the win­ning­side­in­108­of­168 Tests­meant­that­his­bat­ting had­a­greater­im­pact­on­the team’s­success. ­He­was­the golden­boy­in­a­golden­pe­riod of­Aus­tralian­cricket; ­with bowlers­like­Shane­Warne and­Glenn­McGrath, ­bats­men like­Matthew­Hay­den­and Adam­Gilchrist, ­and­later Michael­Clarke­en­sur­ing­the team­won­with­a­reg­u­lar­ity that­was­al­most­Fed­er­erlike.

When­he­was­17, ­team­mates­called­him­‘Sachin’,­yet the­two­mod­ern­greats­had lit­tle­in­com­mon­as­bats­men ex­cept­the­in­stinct­to­dom­i­nate.­Ponting­is­as­Aus­tralian as­Ten­dulkar­is­In­dian, ­and­it is­im­pos­si­ble­to­imag­ine­ei­ther­be­ing­any­thing­else.­Yet Ponting­wasn’t­an­Aus­tralian crick­eter­in­the­way­Ian Chap­pell­was, ­de­spite­a shared­al­lergy­to­author­ity and­the­pas­sion­to­shape­the na­tional­team­in­their­own im­age.­For­all­his­ap­par­ent brash­ness,­Ponting­was­es­sen­tially­a­coun­try­boy,­a­lit­tle dif­fi­dent,­a­lit­tle­sur­prised­by how­far­he­had­come.

De­spite­his­pub­lic­im­age as­a­mav­er­ick, ­Ponting­was­an old-fash­ioned­crick­eter, ­ded­i­cated­to­Test­match­play­and preach­ing­the­pri­macy­of­the long­est­for­mat­of­the­game. He­grew­up­ob­sessed­with the­game, ­and­spent­hours­at the­nets­or­around­ar­eas where­play­ers­con­gre­gated.

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