Indians born in the late 80s and early 90s harbour a special place in their hearts for Ricky Ponting. While his aggressive attitude to ‘get on with it’ made it easy for Indians to hate him, his competence made it worthy for Team India to engage in a front-to-front fight.
Ponting: A flawless natural talent
Born on 19th December 1974, in Tasmania, Ricky Ponting was possibly one of the most flawless natural talents. On the back of scoring back-to-back four centuries in a five-day event, Ponting was able to bag a sponsorship contract at the tender age of 12. He then went on to thrash Australian junior circles for four more years.
It was in 1991 when his talent was spotted at the national level. On a scholarship from Launceston, he was sent to an academy in Adelaide. At the age of 16, he was smashing fast bowlers way taller and stronger than him. In yet another net session during the same week, Ricky Ponting was thrown open to 160km/hr red cherry from the bowling machine. While almost everyone came out injured, Ponting was found flaying the ball towards the square leg.
1992-2002: Struggling decade
In November of 1992, he went on to make his first-class debut at the age of 17. Three years later, he made his Test debut against Sri Lanka in Perth, one of the paciest and bouncy wickets in the world. However, indiscipline attitude kept him in and out of the team up until 1999. He later went on to cement his place in the playing eleven and was awarded Australia’s ODI captaincy in 2002.
Test captaincy and Ashes humiliation
Ponting did not disappoint the selectors and went on to win the 2003 ODI world cup, beating India in the final. Ponting scored a memorable 140 in the final. In fact, Ponting’s Aussies were the only ones who were able to beat Saurav Ganguly-led Indian team in the entire tournament. Impressed with his leadership skills, Australian selectors had no hesitation in handing over test captaincy to Ponting in 2004.
Though Ponting’s exploits continued with the bat, his Test captaincy faced an initial jolt. In 2005, Michael Vaughn’s English team was able to register a 2-1 victory over a strong Australian side. Though demands for sacking him were gaining momentum, Ponting went unflustered for his next assignments.
Avenging the ashes and 2007 world cup
Ponting avenged the 2005 Ashes loss in style when his team thrashed Andrew Flintoff-led English team in the 2006 version of the rivalry. This series was the last one in which Warner, Mcgrath, and Justin Langer played together. A few months later, Ponting went on to register his second world-cup win under his captaincy.
Ponting-An underappreciated person with the bat
While Australia was dominating world cricket, Ponting’s contribution with the bat was underrecognized. From the moment he was appointed as captain, Ponting upped the ante with the bat. In 2002 he averaged nearly 70 per match. During next year his average jumped to 100 runs per match. During the better part of the 2010s, Ponting was the top batsman of his era and was awarded a cricketer of the decade.
Ponting was famous for his front foot pull shots
Technically, Ponting was famous for his front foot pull shots. Before Rohit Sharma’s rise, Ponting was the only batsman to swivel through his pull-shots.
Ponting was one of the effective managers as well. Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne had a massive in-fighting between them. Ponting made sure that their differences do not impact their on-field partnership. His decision to position Warne as a first-slip fielder, played a key role in bridging the gap. Moreover, modulating a war-horse like Macgrath was no small feat.
Love-hate relationship with India
Ponting shares a special bond with India as well. When India toured Australia for the 1992 world cup, Ponting specially requested Australian authorities to allow him to interact with Sachin Tendulkar. 21 years later, he went on to open for Mumbai Indians.
However, he later became a bunny for Indian fans as Indians did not like his aggressive nature. Monekygate during Sydney Test in 2008 did not help his reputation at all. Later he became a coach for Delhi Daredevils and still has a fair share of fanbase in India, thanks to his immaculate knowledge of cricketing intricacies.
Currently, Punter (as he is popularly known) ploys his trade as a coach, mentor, and sometimes as a commentator. His views are well respected among the cricketing fraternity. Indians also seem to be settled on their respect for him. In the end, TFI wishes a very happy 47th birthday to Punter.