Watching that team you led of massive figures who imposed themselves onto every team like never before, one would wonder if not a follower of cricket, if that petite little man who is their captain could be as imposing and great. Great is an understatement for you, as it seems.
Take a bow, Ricky Thomas Ponting, just take a bow! It has been 13 years of following Australian cricket now and there ain’t no better time to say what I have to say to you. It has been 9 long years today of trying to impersonate that attitude you emanated as Captain. It has been 9 years of Inspiring Leadership. It has also been 9 years of looking up to someone in times of ordeals, to stop for a minute and think of what your approach at that point might be. After 9 years of being Australia’s Captain, and your abundant achievements as one, there is just 1 word to describe it – Legendary. Respect!
You have been an asset to this Australian team at every level and have elevated Australian cricket to a different plane. The expectations from the team now are all a result of the tremendous run of victories you have stirred throughout the years and gotten your supporters accustomed to. Every time I saw you walk out onto the ground, it was overwhelming in every sense of the word; all in the eagerness to watch you score those runs and raise your bat acknowledging that feat. Every time that certain Ricky Ponting scored big, we smelt victory. You were that glue in that middle order. Watching you power that elegant, Signature cover drive or that mighty pull-shot over the fence, is a delight! Sheer Class!
That 140* against India in the World Cup 2003 final, that 164 against South Africa are only glimpses of the big occasion player that you are. I still remember on your 100th test, January 2006, against South Africa you walked out with that spark in your eye, scoring centuries in both your innings, being the only one to have done that! It is not a customary feat, that. It is not the amount of runs you score sometimes, it is scoring those runs when the team needs them the most and you have done that time and again for Australia. I have always looked up to you at every stage, not because I support Australian Cricket, but because you personify leadership and determination, like nobody else. Respect!
When I watched Tugga scored that century in the 1999, one of the greatest ‘warrior-like’ innings I’ve ever watched, I wanted to be that hero. When you were made captain after Tugga, you were gifted with a team of legends; your team was invincible! I wanted to be invincible. When you took it onto yourself to score that 140* against India in the World Cup and guide your team to victory being relatively a new captain, I wanted to make a difference like you and lead from the front. When you were criticized time and again and you silenced them all with brilliant performances, I wanted to prove myself against all odds. It is never easy to make condemnation your strength, but you did. I had a glimpse of a ‘warrior-like’ innings in your last game as captain after being the butt of criticism for the past one month relentlessly! Respect!
After top-guns like McGrath, Warnie, Gilly and Hayden retired, you made sure the younger blokes were up to the task, guided them through every loss and victory, still keeping Australia at their competitive best. Your ‘never give up’ attitude has inspired thousands. You never give up; even if you were defending 172 in a test match with 2 days to go, even if your main players were injured and you were leading almost a second string team, guiding your team to win the series, you played the MCG test with a broken finger; you still did not give up! That is sign of a champion! It is not easy coming out of your comfort zone, but you did, time and again, team to team. You are, have been and will always be a fantastic team player. As palpable as it is, you have always put team before individuals and individual achievements. Respect!
This World Cup for you was marred with critics lashing out at you since the onset; be it about the dressing room aggravation, the Steve Smith episode, the ‘not walking’ or the deficit of runs. Personally I think it was blown way out of proportion, all of them. If you’re not allowed to vent your frustration in your dressing room with your team mates, where else are you expected to do it, on the field? The circling vultures – the media, were at it right away, pushing it to a limit where it got annoying to a mere spectator, can't imagine how you felt. The incident with Steve Smith was probably just mere irritation of the boys not having a very good day and the chance of a catch being dropped after having called for it. The not-walking, well as you said and I’m in complete agreement with that, you do not HAVE TO walk! It is not in the rule books of the game that you need to if you’re not given out. You have never claimed to be a walker and unless you want to, you don’t have to. You do not have to be compelled to do anything, Ricky! As far as I remember, I have not seen Sachin walk on numerous occasions where he knew he was out but was given not out. The comparisons are unfair and unjustified! The sheer fact that you are compared to him given that you started playing 6 years after him and are his only competition, just reflects on how mighty good you are. Surely, your last one year has not been one of your greatest in terms of runs scored, but that last innings against India showed no reflection of the past. That innings was solid; no better word to describe it. Even if we went down losing, we went down fighting! That’s what matters the most! Since it was your last ODI as captain, you went down bloodied and beaten, but not before putting up a fight. We fought through our blood and skin and you should be extremely proud! Through all the defeats you’ve endured, I have never ever seen you crushed in spirit and character, ever. That is what I love about you. Respect!
It is not about those losses you’ve endured, it is about the victories that you’ve led your team to. It is not about being buried under the ashes of criticism, it is about being reborn a stronger person like you always have done. I remember you telling Peter Siddle on his debut tour to India after a draw game, ‘We play to win or to lose, and seldom will you have such games.’ Respect!
Your achievements as a cricketer and as a captain speak volumes about your exceptionality. After having stepped down for the dawn of new era in best interests of Australian Cricket, I’d like to thank you for being the same ‘arrogant’ cricketer as the world perceives you to be. Your determination and grit were mistaken for your arrogance, but fret not, there are people who respect you, love you and support you beyond the judgments of the vultures encircling above. It doesn’t matter if you are compared to Sachin Tendulkar and are termed ‘not-as-great’ a player as he is, because if I was given two choices –
1. 32700 runs in 730 innings, 0 WCs, 0 Champions Trophies, 4/25 test victories and 23/73 ODI victories…. OR
2. 25651 runs in 608 innings, 3 WCs, having captained 2, 2 Champions Trophies being Man of the Series in the last, 16 Test match victories in a row, an Ashes whitewash, 48/77 victories as Test Captain and 163/227 ODIs captained…
I’d have blindly chosen the second one. Cricket as you have proved it time and again in all of Australia’s victories is not a game of individual performances, it is a team effort! It’s not about individual statistics, it is about the team performing as a unit and you’ve always made sure of that. Respect!
With much love and a heavy heart, Congratulations on being the BEST Captain the Cricketing world has ever seen. As legendary as a captain, you as a batsman too. There is no shame in stepping down; your achievements should make you swell with pride every time you think of them. Australian Cricket is what it is because of your contributions, most certainly. Thank you for the grace and spirit you’ve possessed throughout the years as Captain, being such an influence in my life! Thank You!
'Form is temporary, Class is permanent.'
I am privileged to have lived through the Ricky Ponting Era! Will miss the grit and the arrogance of your team and most of all, you walking the team off the ground.
Respect and lots of love!