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Who is Ricky Ponting? - Part II
by Asif Nizamuddin Ahmed


Player:RT Ponting

DateLine: 8th November 2012

Continued from Part I

ODIs against India
After a disappointing Test series, Ponting's form in ODIs was good. In consecutive ODI tournaments in India and Sharjah following the Tests in India, Ponting scored 467 runs at an average of 51.88. In addition to three fifties, Ponting hit 145 from 158 balls in the Pepsi Cup against Zimbabwe in Delhi, equalling Dean Jones' Australian record.

First confrontation with none other then “Bhajji”
In the Coca-Cola Cup, April 1997/98 ODI semi-final against India in Sharjah, he and Mark Waugh put on more than 80 runs in 12 overs before Harbhajan Singh (Bhajji) was introduced into the attack. In his second over, Ponting lofted one for four then lofted one over mid-wicket for six but after that he used his feet in an attempt to get to the pitch of the ball but missed to be stumped. After the dismissal both players exchanged some words.

Ponting wrote, "The Sharjah incident was the result of me being over-competitive but it had the potential to get quite nasty. I was really disappointed with the shot I played [to get dismissed] and when I looked up Harbahjan was right in my face giving me the finger [gesturing for Ponting to leave the ground with his index finger] and really mouthing off. Had he been a few more metres away from me I would have not reacted like I did or at the most I would have given him a bit of lip as I walked past. I just over-reacted to the provocation".

Both players were consequently fined $500 and reprimanded by the match referee. Harbhajan was held responsible for starting the fight and was also suspended for one ODI for breaching the ICC Cricket Code of Conduct.

Heartbroken Ponting
For the subsequent tour of Pakistan less than six months later, Darren Lehmann was preferred over Ponting and considered a better player of spin on the subcontinent's dry tracks than Ponting. In the first Test in October, Lehmann scored a brilliant 98 in Rawalpindi and Australia won their first Test in Pakistan in 39 years. However, due to Lehmann's injury, Ponting managed to play in the high-scoring drawn second Test in Peshawar He scored 76 not out and 43 but the real star was Aussie skipper Mark Taylor who equalled Sir Donald Bradman's record of 334 and declared on 599/4 without trying to cross that famous mark. Ponting lost his place to Lehmann for the final Test.

Fearsome once again after first World Cup success
In the early matches, Ponting scored, 33, 47 and 47 respectively against Scotland, Pakistan and New Zealand. Following their defeats by New Zealand and Pakistan, fans doubted that Australia would reach the semi-finals. Probably as a reaction, Australia came back strongly to beat Bangladesh with 30 overs to spare. Ponting batted away from his usual number three spot with pinch hitter Brendon Julian for the only time in the tournament in an attempt to increase the run-rate. His scores against West Indies (20), India (23) and Zimbabwe (36) were not remarkable.

In the last match of the Super Six stage, Australia faced South Africa and needed a win to qualify for the semis. After batting first South Africa scored 271 runs and Australia slumped to 48/3 when Steve Waugh joined Ponting in the middle but scored 22 runs in ten overs. Both seemingly had conversations in the middle perhaps about increasing the scoring rate. The great Jacques Kallis was unable to bowl because of a strained abdominal muscle and this gave the Aussie pair a chance to attack the replacement bowlers to hit 82 from 10 overs. The 126-run stand ended when Ponting fell after a brilliant 69 off 110 balls, including five fours and two sixes. Skipper Waugh took the front seat to hit 120 off 110 deliveries helping Australia to win with two balls to spare.

The two sides met again in their next match, with both needing a win to qualify for the final. Australia only managed 213, Ponting's contribution was a solid 37 from 48 balls. In reply, South Africa started strongly, scoring 45 off the first nine overs with all the wickets in hand. However, legendary Australian spinner Shane Warne suddenly showed his magic by dismissing Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten before going on to pick up 4/29 from 10 overs.

This match is mostly remembered for its dramatic 'end scene' with the Proteas needing eight runs with one wicket in hand. Lower-order hitter, Lance Klusener who had been out there some time tried to score those runs in the next two balls. Hysterical drama followed, as Donald was run-out two balls later, resulting in a tie. Australia qualified for the final while the South Africa's were labelled as 'chokers'.

Australia played the final against Pakistan and won comfortably. Ponting made 24 and ended the tournament with respectable stats of 354 runs at 39.33.

Dream come true, Ricky Ponting the next Australian skipper
After Steve Waugh's retirement at the beginning of 2004 following the drawn home series against India, Ponting assumed the Test captaincy. His captaincy started on a high with a 3–0 clean sweep of the Test series in Sri Lanka. Symonds one of Australia's finest ODI player was brought into the Test format replacing underrated Simon Katich even after he scored a century and an unbeaten fifty in the last Test he played. However, Ricky's decision backfired and Symonds was dropped after two Tests.

Nevertheless, it was still a far cry from Australia's last two Test campaigns in Sri Lanka, which had resulted in a 1–0 win and a 0–1 loss respectively. Individually though, Ponting's own form suffered in comparison to his efforts in 1999. He scored 198 runs at 33.00, his only innings beyond 30 being a 92 in the first innings of the Third Test in Colombo.

Champions Trophy failure
After Australia's super success in World Cups, they failed to win the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy and were knocked out of the semis by England

Loss in Ashes led to criticism in early captaincy career
England won the 2005 Ashes against Australia 2-1. Australia started as favourites but they lost. Thus Ponting became the first Australian captain since Allan Border in 1986-87 to lose the Ashes.

The 2005 Ashes was hailed as one of the great Test series, but because he was the skipper, Ponting faced the flak afterwards. The media quizzed the selectors and Ponting if he was the right man for the job? In his defence, Ponting said that Australia had simply been outplayed and had not stepped up at crucial moments in the matches. He did not relinquish his captaincy in favour of Shane Warne although this suggestion had been made by media.

Ponting becomes the first Australian skipper to win the Champions Trophy
Australia won the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy in India, finally winning the ODI tournament that had eluded them despite their World Cup success.

Australia lose a high-scorer during the 2006 Series in South Africa
Australia continued their winning streak in South Africa, McGrath for family reasons missed the series. Ponting was in full form and scored 103 and 116 in the Second Test in Durban, making it three Test centuries in consecutive innings at the ground. The series ended with Ponting having bagged 348 runs at an average of 58.00. 12 March 2006 was the day when Ponting scored 164 in only 105 balls in the 5th ODI against South Africa in Johannesburg, Australia made a record total of 434 for 4, but perhaps due to the absence of McGrath, South Africa successfully won this high-scoring encounter by scoring 438 for 9.

Honour regained in 2006/07 Ashes
In the First Test in Brisbane, Ponting's famous 196 in Australia's first innings, and his unbeaten 60 in the second helped Australia in winning by a big margin. Ponting top-scored (142) in the Second Test and helped Australia to a total of 513 in response to England's 551/6. The match ended in a six-wicket win for Australia after a last day England collapse.

Ponting often called 'Punter', led Australia to became the second team (after the great Warwick Armstrong's Australian team in 1920-21) to win an Ashes series 5-0 and whitewash England. After this win they became the second strongest cricketing team in the world. Ricky Ponting because of his match-winning performances was awarded Man of the Series for the 2006-07 Ashes after scoring 576 runs at a mammoth average of 82.29 including 2 centuries and 2 half centuries.

Ponting leads Australia to second consecutive World Cup win in 2006/07 and reaches a milestone
Australia's 2007 World Cup campaign began on a high. Ponting himself began brilliantly by scoring 113 runs off just 93 balls that included five sixes, Australia crushed Scotland by winning by 203 runs. Despite scoring just 23 in the next match against the Netherlands, the Aussies still amassed 358 and proceeded to win by 229 runs. Their next match was against South Africa, Australia scored 377/6 - their highest in World Cups. Ponting stood out by scoring 91 off 91 balls, and then became the seventh player to score 10,000 ODI runs. South Africa made a solid start but suddenly lost quick wickets in and after the 21st over, they crumbled and lost 9 wickets for just 74 runs.

After a brilliant performances in the rest of the tournament, Ponting guided Australia in the semi-final against South Africa which they won comfortably 7 wickets. The final against Sri Lanka was affected by rain and reduced to 38 overs a side, Ponting decided to bat first. Australia posted 281, with Adam Gilchrist scoring 149 runs followed by Matthew Hayden's 38 and Ponting's 37. Sri Lanka managed to make 215 runs and had two overs left when rain started falling and the match after use of the D/L method resulted in a 53-run win for Australia. Ponting's total stats in the tournament were impressive (539-runs at an average of 67.37 - with 1 century and 4 half centuries).

Gunman runs out of guns
After the retirement of two of Australia's greatest bowlers, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne (the pair took more than 1250 Test wickets between them), Australia and Ponting suffered heavy losses against India in India and also afterwards. Losing his key bowlers put Ponting under-pressure and onto the backfoot. He must have felt like a General without an army. The years 2008 and 2009 became known as Australia's worst cricketing years but the indomitable Ponting continued to guide Australia with his experience and passion. It was he who lifted Australia out of the depressing morass. Today the majority of cricket fans agree that Punter was instrumental in keeping Australia from suffering the same deep low like the West Indies after their 'Years of Glory'.

As of 18 July 2012 Ponting had 165 Test matches to his name and during the Sri Lanka series in 2013, we may well see him creating history once again by becoming the most capped Australian player. Former Australia skipper Steve Waugh, made 168 Test appearances.

(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2012 Pakistan Cricket Website)
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