Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ponting as at the start of 2010...champion cricketer and captain.

Ricky Thomas Ponting, the prodigy who started wielding the willow aged 10 for his father's club and got junior sponsorship from
Kookaburra soon after, always made an instant impression. He scored quick and big for Tasmania as a teenager and his three year
senior (only in age) Gilchrist cant miss recalling the uber confident Goatee wearing pro making him feel shallow while both
were making their claims for a Aussie test spot. Only that Punter was a certainty even then. But then there was the downside.
While he scored runs on the field, his personal life did not seem to be the stuff of dreams. He had his share of controversies which all
culminated in the famous sydney brawl where his black eye was infamously captured on camera. He personally admitted to have an alcohol related
problem. A common sight these days is him walking to the presentation ceremonies and the crowds booing him from Lord's to Guwahati.
He is the perennial bad boy when it comes to an image and arrogance, haughtiness seem to be the adjectives people tend to associate
with him most.
So what exactly is the point here. Sachin, Lara, Gibbs and even Bell were all prodigies earmarked for success. And there are the good boys like
Younis and Sanga who are liked by all and sundry for their apparent gentlemanly traits. Is there really anything that sets Ricky apart for him
to leave a legacy for cricket. Doesnt look like he could hope to match up to even his predecessor captain.
Or does it.
After all he is the only captain after Murdoch from the last century to loose the coveted Ashes twice in England. And dint his side
exit the T20 world cup in the first round. Did he not loose a test series in India followed by the loss at home to SAfrica. And who lost the all too
important ICC ODI team rankings from the position of supremacy. Makes for a rather bad captain. Does it not.
But what was made of the OZ after the famous tri-retirement of Chapell, Marsh and Lillie. They lost 12 and won 3 tests in the next three years and
lost Test series to West Indies, twice to England, even to New Zealand while even India could salvage a drawn rubber down under and
it took them almost four years to register their first series win againt the lesser brothers New Zealand in home soil. The trio had won the
last series they played in for them 2-0. Both Kim Hughes and Border suffered ignominy at the hands of all other teams.
Ponting's captainship blemishes still are interspersed with series wins against S Africa, India and a plethora of ODI wins.
Even after Hayden, McGill and Gilly followed the other heavyweights out, he could win one of the next three test series and a historic win at that
in South A frica. Even after losing a closey fought Ashes he could win the ODIs 6-1 followed by the champions trophy win and a series win in India and regain
the top ranking.all too soon. He has achieved all this while only Hussey has consistently been in the playing 11 to answer the call
for any established cricketer other than himself. Clarke, Clark and Lee have been injured or out of form. And one and all from Beau Casson, Jason Krejza,
Bryce McGain, Michael Clarke, Simon Katich, Cameron White, Hauritz have been entrusted with the job of winning test matches with
their spinners. Even Shane Watson has opened in Test matches and three wicketkeepers have lent service to the national cause.
A player has joined the playing 11 with the flight boarding ticket in his pocket and one of the Aussie winning combination has looked more like a Pura Cup outfit.
And among all this, he has managed to accumulate most ODI runs in the year worldwide with almost every run worth the record unlike
some other player's runs which are no reflection of their contribution to a team's particular objective on that day.
And then there is Ponting the batsman. It is not the aim of this essay to decipher or list the electrifying attributes that make him the magnetic batsman he is
while on the crease. There is however the final product which is so pleasing to the eye and satisfying to the intellect. There is a sense of purpose in virtually
everything he does on the cricket field. He has successfully maintained the high standards for a long period now to answer the calls for consistency required to
bestow an all time great tag on a batsman. And ofcourse he has made the number 3 position his own as no one else has in both the formats of the game.
The only frailty which could be put against him is his occassional tentativeness against quality spin. Not to state that he has a decisive weakness against that form
of bowling, but just a case. However, it is not substantial enough to bother him or any critic and is far too occassional.
Now revrting to the original issue of a general criticism that he has to endure, we can only sympathise with him. He is actually one of the most sporting losers
in the game. He takes all the losses on the chin and doesnt shirk from responsibility and thats the mark of a champion. That comes from a confidence and a belief in
one's own abilities. He is always matter of fact. Adam Gilchrist quotes how he was matter of fact when Adam got vice captaincy ahead of him and also in the same
vein when Ricky got the captaincy ahead of Gilly. And Gilly himself assures everyone in his book that Punter was the best possible leader after Waugh among
the lot of legends. He throws light on how it was only Punter who could handle and confront if the need be, to the mercurial Warnie. Any other person in charge,
Gilly argues would have failed miserably in tackling Warnie without bias and hesitation. That is how Ponting is - matter of fact, forthright and that
is what comes as brash and rude to many a fellow. That is pitiful as such a person warrants highest respect for his professionalism and honesty to his craft.
Well, he is ultra competitive and thus would not sport that fake smile during close games. He wants to win to the last drop of his sweat and the last clause
of legality in the game. And like a truly confident professional, he does not seem to bother what anybody else has to say about his craft. Such is the confidence
which beams out when he trudges or rather sprints to the batting crease when the Aussies are one wicket down. That is what a fan would long to look in his/her
favorite player. And that is what Punter offers to his fan more than any other cricketer does to their's and that is where his true value lies.

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