Ricky Ponting’s famously hard-nosed demeanour softened a bit with emotion, as he called time on a majestic 17-year-long career in Perth on Thursday.
The 37-year-old announced his decision to retire at the conclusion of the third Test match against South Africa, which begins on Friday. But he will play for Tasmania and represent Hobart Hurricanes this season in the Big Bash League, Australia’s domestic T20 tournament.
Much speculation had surrounded Ponting’s future over the past few days after he failed in Brisbane and Adelaide against South Africa, scoring 0, 4, and 16.
The man himself was characteristically honest in his assessment of himself. “It’s a decision I thought long and hard about. At the end of the day, it was about my results and my output in this series so far,” said the Launceston-born batsman. “If you look back over the last 12 or 18 months, I haven’t been able to perform consistently.”
Noting that he had first discussed his retirement with his wife [Rianna], the former Australian captain admitted to the difficulty involved in breaking the news to his teammates. “I tried to tell them a lot, but I didn’t get much out. They’ve never seen me emotional, but I was this morning.”
Australian skipper Michael Clarke struggled to hold back tears. “I didn't have a feeling it was coming. Ricky spoke to me after the Adelaide Test and made his decision, I guess, over the last few days. He’s been an amazing player for a long time.… and that’ll do me for today.”
Ponting acknowledged the support of Clarke and coach Mickey Arthur. “There’s been all sorts of things in the papers the last couple of days and I know certainly with my captain and my coach I couldn't have had any more support from those guys. ”
“This is not a decision that’s been made by the selectors, this is a decision that’s been made by me. I’m glad I’ve got the opportunity to finish on my terms. I know I’ve given cricket my all, ” he said.
Ponting’s shimmering career saw him stack up a plethora of records, right from leading Australia to two World Cup titles (in 2003 and 2007) to being a part of more than 100 Test victories (108) — the only cricketer to do so. He is also the second highest scorer, after Sachin Tendulkar in Tests and One-Day Internationals.
The ultra-competitive spirit of Ponting, with tigerish zeal for fitness and fielding, constantly bordered on ruthlessness. Regarded as the best Australian batsman since Don Bradman by legends such as Allan Border and Steve Waugh, Ponting will go down as one of the game’s finest.
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