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A tribute to Ricky Ponting

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Ricky PontingThe final cog of the glittering generation of Australian cricket has called it quits. Ricky Ponting has announced that the Perth Test against South Africa will be his last international game. It means the retirement from international cricket is 5 days away; at max. And like you expect from an Australian cricketer, he was frank, forthcoming and analytical about his performance. Although adamant as a cricketer, he was honest to realise and more importantly, to admit that his contributions towards the team have gone down. And hence, better for him to announce that his time as an international cricketer is at an end.

Ricky Ponting’s cricketing career is embodied with the tendency to evoke reactions with whatever he does. Be it his batting, fielding, captaining the Australian side or for that matter his bowling. Or be it the way he bulldozed the oppositions with skill and sledges from close in. Add to that list, his press conferences, interviews and wry yet childlike smile. There was no ‘sitting back approach’ with whatever he did on the field or off it. Like the Australian way of cricket, he was proactive in whatever he did. Hence, the reactions were incidental and obvious to come. One arrived right after he announced his retirement with Michael Clarke. With the announcement he made Michael Clarke sentimental. Although of a different kind, it is an achievement. Clarke is a brilliant batsman and his fielding makes many jaws drop. And some feel that that he is ruthless and is too much in love with himself. But he does not seem to be too bothered about what his supporters or detractors think about him. In other words, neither the praise nor the criticism affects him dear. But the press meet on the eve of the third Test of the on-going Test series made us witness a different Clarke - moist eyed and with a lump in the throat. Ricky Ponting has changed the equations of the game when on the field. Press conferences are no different either.

The announcement to retire has made it clear that Ponting will not travel to England for the Ashes in 2013. Although the history of colonialism does add a different tinge to the entire England-Australia rivalry, the cricket, if discussed as a separate entity has not been too bland either; the Ashes being the pinnacle of their cricketing bond. Hence, it is not strange that players from Australia are as much discussed in England as much as their own. And by that logic, so are their records, personalities and many other aspects. Ponting’s announcement to retire from international cricket has done the same. Michael Vaughan, the ex-England captain and Ponting’s counterpart during Ashes 2005 was quite forthcoming in one of his tweets where he stated, “The best batsman I had the privilege to play against Ricky Ponting...Punter Australia cricket will not be the same without him.” It is a huge compliment, keeping in mind that Vaughan had played against Tendulkar, Kallis and Dravid- the other modern day greats. 

But it is not just players who played alongside or against him who are pouring in with their thoughts about Ponting. If tweets, Facebook statuses and blog posts amongst the fans are anything to go by, then Ponting’s status as one of the game’s greatest casts zero doubts; even in India. It is not that Indian cricket fans love Ricky more than they love Sachin Tendulkar. In fact, Ricky’s image had a serious breakdown post the acrimonious Sydney Test in 2008. But there was worrisome time for Indian fans between 2005 to early 2008 when Sachin’s form was indifferent and Ponting was breathing down Sachin’s batting stats. Knowing that India is country obsessed with numbers, the constant follow up of Ponting’s record and then the eventual relief when Sachin started to get going are perhaps the most obvious indicators that Indians appreciated Ponting-the batsman just like everyone else across the cricketing globe did.

While the generation of current cricketers continues to look up to him as a batsman, his fielding skills are something that they rave about with equal fervour. The opinions won’t be any different if you travel to West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia’s neighbour New Zealand and the other cricketing countries. Ponting, the batsman and Ponting, the fielder enjoys a cult status amongst fans, experts and cricketers.

Back in Australia, as South Africa gear up to go hard at the Aussies to win or draw the game and remain the number one Test team in the world. Aussies will try their hardest to make the Perth Test memorable for Ricky. As Clarke said, “it is an inspiration for all of them to win this Test.”. Meanwhile, even the ardent T20 cricket supporters won’t mind if the Test goes slower than usual. Test match lovers will want everything to be so Test match like, a tad bit classy, traditional, stylish and testing the bests of the game. But amidst all that, the feeling to watch the man who remained staunch amongst the troubled and good times of Australia will be universal.
 
A win means Australia emerge as the new number 1 in the Test ranking. This will be apt for a man who was the cornerstone in making Australia the number one cricketing nation in the past. It all started on this very ground 17 years ago for Ricky and it is going to end here. This one time, I want those fairy-tales to turn real.



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