The clatter of his leg stump still ringing in his ears, the sight of England’s now tiresome talisman, arms spread-eagled, inked indelibly on his mind, Ricky Ponting left the field at the Oval in 2009. Not to the cat-calling or boos of previous weeks, but to a standing ovation, an English crowd showing respect to one of the post-war era’s finest batsmen.
Fast forward 18 months and Ponting his finally called time on his captaincy, a series of disastrous one day results, followed by Ashes humiliation on home soil, finally doing for him. But while many England fans are rightly applauding the great man’s work and his remarkable record as Australia’s captain (in spite of those three Ashes losses), some still think it’s appropriate to bad mouth Punter.
Choice quotes from the comments on Mike Selvey’s excellent piece on Ponting for The Guardian included, “A first-rate batsman. A second-rate captain. A third-rate human being,” and, “Ponting a batting genius or great- absolute nonsense. Grown adults shouldn’t be coming up with such rubbish.”
Admittedly, the comments over on Lord Selvey’s piece were largely complimentary and showed a great understanding of Australian cricket and the position in which Ponting found himself as one of the finest team’s in Test history began to break up. But whatever Ponting’s merits as Australia’s captain, his position as one of the world’s best, alongside Tendulkar and Lara, is unquestionable. To describe him as, “…a third rate human being,” shows that some England cricket fans are willing to believe everything they read and happy to use football-style abuse in a game which still has manners and gentlemanly conduct at its heart, no matter its rampant commercialisation.
Ponting will play on, and may even tour England in 2013. I for one hope he does. Beating an Australian team shorn of legends such as him just won’t feel the same. Ponting is everything English cricketers and English cricket fans should want to be up against. Fiery, fierce and a true talent, surely there’s great merit in playing and (hopefully) beating such sportsmen. Any England fan who thinks Ponting really is anything more than a pantomime villain needs their head testing. Without his like, England would not have finally grown a pair and learned how to win hard, rather than simply capitulating at the first sign of stiff resistance.