by Liam McConville
All four corners of the WACA stood together in appreciation for one of Australia’s true cricketing greats. Ricky Ponting soaked up the atmosphere as he took to the field for the final time to a guard of honour from the South African team. This was a day to say farewell, the game was almost certainly already gone with the home team chasing a huge total of 632 to complete the most unlikely of wins.
This was a chance for the second highest run scorer in the history of Test cricket to bow out with his head held high. There was little pressure, just the hope that maybe ‘Punter’ could score one last hundred to help delay the inevitable. Sadly it simply wasn’t to be, less than forty minutes and only eight runs later, Ponting edged Robin Peterson to slip where arguably the sport’s greatest all-rounder, Jacques Kallis took a fine catch.
There was a flash of frustration on the face of the great man perhaps even anger before finally a resigned acceptance that this was the end. The South African team rushed to him to shake his hand, to wish him the best, to thank him for being such a brilliant opponent. Eventually he slowly trudge back to the pavilion to another standing ovation, pausing to salute the Perth faithful, arms aloft.
From there the South Africans pressed on, showing why they are the best Test team in the world by completing a crushing 309 run win to take the series 1-0. They have gone unbeaten over the whole of 2012 and will seek to build a dominant side to match Ponting’s own imperious Australian team. The Aussies themselves have a lot to consider; the high they felt last year after the crushing defeat of India has well and truly evaporated ahead of back-to-back Ashes series in 2013.
He can look back on his career with a huge amount of satisfaction. Over 13,000 Test runs and 41 Test 100s give an indication of just how good he really was. Add in three World Cups, an Ashes whitewash as skipper and all manner of records and accolades and you really start to see the scale of his achievements in the game.
Sure there will be detractors who question his ability as captain. He will always be remembered as a man who lost three Ashes series to England and of course the man who was run out by English cult hero Gary Pratt. It is fair to say that the transition between Australia’s golden era to now has been challenging to say the least. However if you’re replacing the great Glenn McGrath with the likes of Ben Hilfenhaus then it’s understandable that results might start to go South.
Perhaps Ponting should have retired after the Ashes humbling two years ago but he simply felt he couldn’t go out like that. His form since has been patchy, there were flashes of brilliance against India with yet another double century. However his form dipped again culminating in this series where his top score was a meagre 16.
The Ponting that will be remembered will not be the shadow that has taken to the field in recent weeks but the imperious warrior who plundered runs all over the world for almost two decades. He was a great fighter if not a great leader. A man who we loved to hate but secretly always wished that he was on our side. Now’s the time for Ponting to put his feet up, relax and enjoy his retirement. You will be sorely missed Ricky.