After all the accolades and tributes that have flown in before, during and since the Perth Test when he ended a phenomenal cricket career, I have a confession to make.
I have never liked Ricky Ponting.
As a kid who watched the 2003 World Cup Finals with excessive optimism and prayers, it is hard to like him. His 140 not out, which demolished India’s hopes of winning the Trophy, was probably one of the best ODI innings played by an Australian; but I still disliked him. The 2004 Border-Gavaskar Trophy did not endear him any further as his gem of an innings in Melbourne took the game away. I was wickedly delighted when Ponting became the first captain since Allan Border to lose the Ashes in 2005. But then came 2007 and he also became the first captain in 86 years to clean sweep the Ashes, beating England 5-0 at home, in addition to being the Man of the Series. My dislike deepened. In 2006 he led Australia to a Champions Trophy victory (and pushed Sharad Pawar off the podium) I disliked him to the core. His attitude as Australian captain in the controversial 2008 India vs Australia Test series was enough for any Indian to start hating him. The subsequent Ashes defeats and unsuccessful tours to New Zealand and India, A World Cup defeat (where he did his best albeit) and it looked like the Ponting era was gone. He gave up captaincy and instead of going down, came up even more. He became the first cricketer to be part of 100 Test match wins at Galle & tormented India with a century at Sydney and a double at Adelaide. How could any Indian cricket fan like him!
However, the more my dislike grew, the more I felt another emotion toward Mr. Ricky Thomas Ponting – an emotion like 'grudging admiration'. The sheer power and proficiency of his game forcibly turned me from a grudge-keeper to a grudging admirer. But Ponting is known to have that effect on people. How can a cricket fan not like a batsman who can turn any delivery into a boundary with that trademark pull and hook? How can you not like watching him piling on the runs with his laidback smile? How can you not like his astute brains as skipper, be it field placements or sledging the opposition? The words obnoxious, stubborn, disagreeable, ruthless are all compliments to the man. And after playing 375 ODI matches and scoring 13,704 runs at average of 42.03 with 30 centuries and 82 half-centuries and after playing in five World Cups, winning three of those back-to-back and two of those as captain; And after 167 Tests scoring 13366 runs at an average of 52.21 with 41 centuries and 62 half-centuries and after winning Ashes 5-0, holding on to the ICC Test Mace for the longest time and having his name on pretty much every trophy there is, Ponting can afford to be obnoxious, stubborn, disagreeable, ruthless and anything else he wishes to be.
And therein lies the greatness of Ponting. His arrogance is a crown he wears on a high head, he is proud of his stubbornness because that has what has got him his plus 25,000 runs and every possible Trophy there is to be won as captain. He no longer is a part of the international cricket anymore, but such is his legacy that no other mortal could ever come close. Captain of the most successful, the most dominant side in world cricket for a decade with every possible series, tournament and trophy in his name, as a batsman, second only to Sachin Tendulkar in numbers and as a leader second to none in his ruthless, aggressive, effective style. Ponting doesn't ask to be loved, or even liked, he merely demands grudging admiration. As he walks in to the sunset, all I can say is - Thanks for the entertainment, Punter!