Monday, September 23, 2013

Excerpts from Indra Vikram Singh's book 'Don's Century' ..... 29 - Chapter 7 : PEERLESS RUNGETTER AND OTHER MASTERS OF THE WILLOW (34. Ricky Ponting)

A batsman who occupied the no. 1 slot for several years is Ricky Ponting. For long the Australians said he was as good as Tendulkar, but this was often dismissed as hype bordering on jingoism. In his early days he seemed to be a brash young man, the naughty boy of the team. He also lived in the shadow of the Waugh twins. The mischievous look remains, but as he matured - which coincided with being handed the captaincy - Ponting quickly scaled the peak. In 2003 he hit up 1503 runs in 11 Tests at 100.20 per innings. In 2005 he amassed 1544 runs in 15 Tests at an average of 67.13, the sole batsman to notch up 1500 runs in a calendar year twice.

Not surprisingly for an Australian, Ponting is the one of the top batsmen against pace. Forever looking to get on to the front foot with an exaggerated pick up of the bat, he is quick to rock back and pull or hook. He has not always been happy against spin. Steve Waugh’s famous ‘final frontier’ series of 2000-01 in India was miserable for Ponting. Young off-spinner Harbhajan Singh mesmerised him, claiming his wicket in all five innings for 0,6,0,0,11.

In the 2007-08 series in Australia, Harbhajan once more troubled Ponting, dismissing him cheaply in the first Test at Melbourne, and then again in the first innings at Sydney. One got the impression that the Australians pressed charges against Harbhajan because they wanted to shift his focus away from the game. Whatever the truth, Harbhajan did not bother Ponting again in the series.

Despite this, there can be no denying that Ponting has been among the best batsmen in the world for many years. Having become the seventh to reach 10,000 Test runs - now stationed at 12,363 - with an average of 53.51 and 39 hundreds, Ponting would be vying with the likes of Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis to pass Lara’s record aggregate and set new benchmarks.       

In One-day Internationals Ponting has logged 13,602 runs, more than 4500 runs behind Tendulkar, with an average of 42.77, strike-rate of 80.59 and 30 centuries. His moment of glory in One-dayers came in the final of the 2003 World Cup at Johannesburg when he virtually finished the match even before India batted. His unbeaten 140 with a record 8 sixes ensured that the ICC World Cup stayed with Australia.

Ponting’s captaincy record in the World Cup is magical. His team won 22 matches in a row - 11 each in 2003 and 2007 - a feat that is unlikely to be matched and went another five matches in 2011 without defeat. Just as Steve Waugh’s side had a hiccup in India in 2000-01, Ponting’s outfit lost the Ashes in 2005. That was the first time Australia lost the Ashes since 1986-87, after winning an unprecedented eight successive series against the Old Enemy. Ponting’s team then bounced back at home, reclaiming the Ashes in style by 5-0 in 2006-07. His side also equalled the feat of Steve Waugh’s men by winning 16 Tests in a row in that acrimonious game at Sydney in 2007-08, full of umpiring howlers.

Of late the sheen has worn off a bit in Ponting’s career. His form has dipped somewhat, and there were even calls to sack him from the captaincy after that controversial Sydney Test. Peter Roebuck went to the extent of writing that Ponting had turned the Australian team into a “pack of wild dogs.” That might be going a bit too far, but his side lost the One-day triangular finals 2-0 to India. With two successive series losses in the Ashes, and the World Cup crown taken away in 2011, it was inevitable that he would relinquish the captaincy. Ponting can now focus on his batting.

(Statistics in Don’s Century are updated till 27th August 2011, the 103rd birth anniversary of Sir Donald Bradman).

Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

Indra Vikram Singh’s latest books 
published by Sporting Links:
A Maharaja’s Turf   ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket   ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3
Don’s Century   ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0
Crowning Glory   ISBN 978-81-901668-6-7

Available online on several websites.

Distributed in India by :  
Variety Book Depot 
AVG Bhawan, 
M-3, Middle Circle, Connaught Circus,
New Delhi-110 001, India. 
Tel. + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.

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