Ricky Ponting's announcement on Thursday that the upcoming Perth Test against South Africa starting November 30 will be his final international appearance has met with numerous tributes from former cricketers as well as his contemporaries during a glorious 17-year-career.
Speaking to Cricketnext, one of the captains who went up against Ponting several times in Test and one-day cricket, Sourav Ganguly, recalls his memories of watching, admiring and being at the wrong end of Ponting' bat. Over to him …
On Ponting the batsman: He's been one of the finest batsman of this generation, along with Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, and probably, the best batsman Australia have produced after Sir Don Bradman. His biggest strength as a batsman was that he always took the attack to the opposition. He always strived to dominate the bowlers and made sure that he called the shots while being at crease. Ponting had an exemplary technical rectitude to go with his audacity. He's the finest exponent of the pull shot I have seen in last 20 years. He's one of the few batsmen who could change the course of the game in a session. And of course, he was a big match player who always came good in important matches.
On Ponting the captain: Ponting was a fine captain, I believe. His record speaks for itself (most victories by a captain in Test cricket). He was at the helm of the formidable Australian team which was the best in the world. He managed and utilized his resources shrewdly. After the retirements of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer, Australia didn't remain the force they were once. He's also the only Australian captain to lose the Ashes three times. So, I think it emphasizes the point that a captain is as good as his team. The thing which impressed me the most about him as a captain was that he always looked to win the matches. Just as a batsman, his approach as a captain was equally aggressive and enterprising. Also, he always had alternative plan if one strategy didn't work out. He enjoyed complete respect and support of the team as a leader.
On Ponting the competitor: Ponting typified the true Australian spirit. He was fierce and truculent on the field, but affable and warm off the field. I always got along well with him and we used to discuss cricket a lot. He made sure to congratulate me every time I did well against them. I remember after I scored 144 against Australia at Brisbane in 2003-04, he came to me and took me out. We had a great time when we played with each other for Kolkata Knight Riders in the first season of the IPL. That is when I got to know him more as a person. He was ever willing to share his experience and knowledge of the game with others. It was an absolute pleasure playing with and against him.
On Ponting's magnum opus: India have been at the wrong end of some of Ponting classics. He denied us what would have been some of our most memorable victories. The 257 he got against us at Melbourne in 2003-04 snatched the match away from us. Viru [Virender Sehwag] had blasted 195 to take us to 350-odd (366) in the first innings and we had nipped Justin Langer out early but Ponting, along with Hayden, queered our pitch. Had it not been this innings, we probably would have won our first Test series in Australia.
And then his unbeaten 140 in the World Cup 2003 final which is one of the best ODI innings I've ever seen. We had played so well as a team throughout the tournament but Ponting again proved our nemesis. I think he relished playing against India and it got the best out of him as we were the second best team after Australia in that period. He loved challenges and it showed in the way be batted in the crucial matches.