DateLine: 8th November 2012
A salute to a living legend and one of Test and ODI cricket's finest players, Ricky Thomas Ponting, the man who started his career on a low but grew by leaps and bounds into a giant.
Ponting's early ODI performances
For the upcoming West Indies tour some members of the media suggested Ponting be selected as a reserve wicketkeeper. However, he was selected as a specialist batsman. "It was like all my birthdays had come at once. I had some reservations about making my Test debut against arguably the best fast bowling attack in the world", Ponting said later. The West Indians were in their glory days at that time and one of the toughest teams to face or even defeat. They dominated world cricket for close to two decades. Before the start of the tour, Mark Taylor, Australia's skipper, thought the fight for the last Test batting vacancy was probably between Ponting and Justin Langer. "Ricky Ponting is more the stroke player while Justin is the tough man. It depends on what we need at the time but you can probably say Ricky has his neck in front because he's been on this tour [of New Zealand]", Taylor had said. Ponting's attitude and fearless approach could tear the West Indies apart was what Rod Marsh thought. Nevertheless, Ponting was never on the front seat to be selected. Steve Waugh noted that Ponting would "not be intimidated by the West Indians' inevitable waist-to-chin length". Ponting clearly thought that the West Indian bowlers were over-rated as was quoted as saying, the current crop of bowlers were not "of the same high class" that opposition teams had come to expect from the West Indies.
Ponting was selected for the third ODI on 12 March 1995 at Queen's Park Oval, when Mark Waugh missed out through injury. Ponting once again batting at number three was involved in a 59-run partnership with Steve Waugh; however, he got out on 43 and failed to complete a half-century. Injured Mark Waugh returned for the next match and perhaps because of lady luck, Ponting had to sit on the bench until he replaced an out-of-form David Boon in the fifth and final match but got a second-ball duck. Later he managed to score 19 in a three-day warm-up ahead of the Tests but compatriot Greg Blewett scored a century with Justin Langer compiling a half-century. Thus his 19 was not enough to force his way into the Test side although, after 20 years Australia successfully won the Frank Worrell Trophy for the first time, winning 2-1.
In June 1995 he undertook a tour to England with the Young Australians; that team included fellow Tasmanian Shaun Young. It also had the likes of Matthew Hayden, Matthew Elliott, Martin Love, Justin Langer and Stuart Law who afterwards became great Test players. Despite not batting as well as he "would have liked", Ponting returned to Australia with the fourth highest batting average – 48.73.
Ponting's first Test match and series
Ponting's performance was overshadowed by Australian umpire Darrell Hair's 'no-balling' of Muralitharan for throwing on seven occasions, the tensions had increased between the two sides. Boon, Ponting's fellow Tasmanian retired after the Third Test, and Ponting's performances were not too good batting at number six, managing six and 20. Australia won yet again, sweeping the series with a comfortable 3-0 win. As the second player from Tasmania to make it big he was praised by David Boon, "I would have hated to be the first person to come through from Launceston and make it but he has proved it can be done". Ponting ended his debut and first Test series on a high with 193 runs at an average of 48.25.
Tough 1996 World Cup and aftermath series against India
Australia's slight revival in the series
For Part II please click here
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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