Punter’s last hand
Ricky Ponting calls time on his glittering career. The Perth Test against South Africa, starting today, will be his last appearance for Australia.cricket Updated: Nov 30, 2012 00:54 IST
So, one of the undroppables has gone. Today, Ricky Ponting plays his 168th and last Test for Australia. And perhaps for the first time there will be thousands of Poms urging him to sign off with a century.
Ponting, 37, equals the record number of Tests alongside Steve Waugh and somehow he departs in a more Australian way than Waugh, who is often held up as the archetypal Aussie. The celebration of Waugh's career seemed to last for a year - from the time he hit the last ball of the day for four to post his century at Sydney against England in January 2003 to his final Test against India a year later. The handkerchieves were out. It was Sydney at its most sentimental.
Ponting's departure in Perth, where it all started 17 years ago, seems more of a no-nonsense affair. There were a few tears on the eve of the match, but mostly from the eyes of Ponting’s successor, Michael Clarke.
Ponting did not want to dwell on his career too much, preferring to talk of the forthcoming match against South Africa, the final Test of an intriguing series. He wasn't asking for sympathy. Nor was it necessary to hang out the bunting. As far as possible he did not want to detract from the game ahead.
In Ponting's teens Rodney Marsh, then in charge at Australia's Academy, was gob-smacked when he kept pulling 90mph deliveries sent down by the bowling machine in a way that none of his peers could manage. As a young Test cricketer, Ponting could be awesome; he could also be a larrikin, not necessarily at his best at the bar, where he was reluctant to decline a drink and incapable of taking a backward step. He learned; he matured; he was made captain, winning more games for Australia than any other, yet participating in three losing Ashes series.
Against England in 2005 he became a pantomime villain. To anyone who knew anything of cricket and cricketers he could only be a pantomime villain, not the real thing. He is passionate about the game and was selfless.
He could not hide his emotions. Remember his fury when he was run out at Trent Bridge in 2005. Remember, too, his grace and candour when that series was over - and his determination to make amends in 2006-7.
It was rare an Aussie should keep playing after relinquishing the captaincy but Cricket Austral-ia CEO James Sutherland said: “My respect for him has actually increased, seeing first-hand how he stepped back to become a total team player.”