I don’t know why am I even writing a ‘tribute’ piece-if you insist on calling it that-for someone whom I’ve never liked. Ricky Ponting is not my favourite cricketer. He’s not there in my list of Top 10 favourite cricketers. Not in the Top 15. Top 20? Umm… no. Despite being the statistical skyscraper of Australian cricket, holding all the batting records (except for that ‘holy grail’ of averages, of course) he’s not even my favourite batsman among Australians- I would always pick the left-handed wicket-keeper batsman from Western Australia. And for all the unattainable success he had as a captain, I always thought there were better leaders than him in world cricket.
In fact, Ricky Ponting had been one of my least favourite cricketers. Top 5? Definitely yes. Being the boorish brat who brawled over beers in bars, his attitude in the field was not very different. He sprinted hard to save runs on the field, yes. Leapt and sprung, yes. But I preferred a Kangaroo to Ricky Ponting.
Maybe the thing they say about the first impression is partly true; the first time I heard about him was about his disciplinary issues and I just couldn’t take it as a young kid, who adored an antithesis of Ponting: a calm and composed, humble and honest Sachin Tendulkar.
He would take a catch, rubbing the ball on the ground, and still convince the umpires that he took it clean. He’d stand his ground even after he nicks the ball to the wicketkeeper’s hands, testing the umpire’s hearing ability even after a person sitting in the 20th row of the stands has heard the nick. Ponting was an outrageous opportunist. And he openly admits it without any shame.
Shame on him.
By now, you’d have figured out that neither is the article a paen to Ponting nor is the writer his panegyrist. But no, it does not end at throwing brickbats at the batsman who is considered the best next to Bradman in Australia. That was not the intention behind writing this. This is not about what I had thought of him. This is about what I think about him now.
You probably would’ve had a guy in class whom you never liked. According to you, whatever he did was bad. You probably never spoke to him or bothered to know him well because your preconceptions about that person prevented you from doing so. But at the time of your farewell, you probably have an afterthought. You probably see his ‘other side’. You’ll probably realize that he wasn’t bad. You probably feel like you will miss him. You’ll probably begin to like him. That’s exactly how I feel about Ponting now.
The faced the first ball in his test career, he charged down to the mysterious Muralitharan to hit it through the covers. But the ball kissed the edge of the bat and was travelling towards the slip. He could have been out golden duck. But instead it went away from the fielder and went for a four. Fortune favoured Ponting. Maybe I misconstrued bravery as brashness. Or maybe not. But that’s how Ponting was: aggressive, expressing without holding anything back.
Maybe I misconstrued aggression as arrogance. Or maybe not. But he was always ready to learn from his follies, like all great sports-persons. “Playing cricket for Australia,” he said, when he was suspended for two one-day internationals after a ‘nightclub incident’ that happened years ago, “I was taking things for granted a little bit, and realising ‘Geez, I, may never get this back.” He did not like the fact that cricket was being taken away from him. He was always overtly passionate about the game.
And even though I won’t agree that he’s the best captain in world cricket, I cannot deny the numbers. He has an 85% win percentage in tests-the highest by any; two world cups-won back to back without losing a single match in the competition. And his batting average after he took up captaincy suggests that Punter was one of the Aussie’s best bets. He was there when his team needed him.
…And walked away when it no longer did (or so he thought.) Ricky Ponting is still not my favourite cricketer. But I will miss him nonetheless.