Once upon a time there was a spoilt brat. And that is that. It was only once upon a time. The monster channelized his energy in the right direction and turned himself into a conqueror. The obvious transition was when from a match-winner he became an astute and cold-blooded leader.
Love him or hate him, he is Ricky Ponting for you. Fighting odds from the start of his career, the Tasmanian earned his respect the hard way and in no way he was going to give that up easily. He always carried his heart on his sleeve even as he ‘raised his finger’ when needed, led his men by example and ruthlessly crushed every opponent that came his way.
The aura that Australia had of ‘Invincibles’ was carried forward in a relentless style by Punter. And besides leading by style, he led by example too. The unsentimental end to his spectacular ODI career was impending for some time now. In his journey of scoring over 13,000 runs, some of his innings were pure gems.
They defined the new importance of No.3 batsmen in the game. There aren’t many who can match his role in this slot as 29 of the 30 tons he has scored came in this position. Here is the compilation of the Tasmanian champ’s top ten ODI innings.
Match: Australia vs Sri Lanka, Benson & Hedges World Series
Date: January 9, 1996
Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground
A maiden ton has its own charm. This was one of the only five times in Ponting’s ODI career that his century went in vain. Coming in at No. 4, Ponting resurrected the Australian innings after medium pacer Manjula Manusinghe had wreaked havoc at top. Setting up a world record fifth-wicket partnership with Michael Bevan, his maiden century got Australia to a respectable 213. But an enterprising start from Romesh Kaluwitharana while chasing, buried dead Ponting’s efforts as Lanka went on to win the game.
Match: Australia vs West Indies, Wills World Cup
Date: March 4, 1996
Venue: Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur
This is where the real daredevil No.3 Ponting was witnessed by the world. On a tough pitch, in his typical style then, Ponting came out to bat wearing a cap to face the deadly duo of Ambrose and Walsh. The two Caribbean speedsters had kept Australians silent conceding just eight runs in the first nine overs. But Ponting wrested the initiative after getting his eye in. Australia were 94 in first 30 overs and reached 229. Sadly, Windies went on to win the game. But Ponting had arrived scoring first of his 29 tons at No.3.
Match: Pakistan vs Australia, Australia in Pakistan
Date: November 10, 1998
Venue: Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore
His century No. 5 would be the one he would remember all his life for sure. In one of its kind match, there were four centurions, two on either side. Pakistan had Ijaz Ahmed and Yousuf Youhana in their 315-run compilation. But it was Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting’s return favours which stood out. While Gilly in his typical fashion took the sails out of Pakistani winds, it was Punter who stood their till the end in equalling the highest run chase in ODIs then. He would surely rate this unbeaten 124 amongst his top-5 ever.
Match: South Africa vs Australia
Date: March 30, 2002
Venue: Goodyear Park, Bloemfontein
After assuming the reins of the Australian side, Ponting asserted his authority in typical fashion. The No. 3 pummelled Proteas bowlers pulling and driving with consummate ease and it was punctuated with 15 hits to the fence in a score of 129. But his dominance was trully defined by the straight six he hit off Jacques Kallis’ bowling. His ninth career ton and first as captain was the cornerstone of their series-sealing win over hosts South Africa.
Match: Australia vs Sri Lanka, Super Six, World Cup, South Africa
Date: March 7, 2003
Venue: Centurion, Johannesburg
His devastating wicketkeeper did what he does the best, taking the initiative in his blitzkrieg style. But skipper Ricky Ponting ensured that the momentum didn’t shift in the favour of Sri Lanka. He smashed Lankan bowlers to all corners of the park with the same ease which Gilly showed early on. After scoring his first fifty runs in 66 balls, Ponting raced to his 12th hundred in next 30 balls. Aravinda DeSilva’s 92 while chasing a mammoth 319 was a lovely sight but went in vain. Indians definitely didn’t take this innings from Ponting seriously.
Match: Australia vs India, World Cup Final, South Africa
Date: March 23, 2003
Venue: Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg
By far, this was the most destructive Ponting ever witnessed. The man and the moment met at the right time and the right place. At the right occasion too. Figure this, his unbeaten 140 came off 121 balls, of which first fifty were scored off 74 balls and the rest of the runs came in a blur motion. He perfectly tuned up to the start given by Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist. Damien Martyn’s silky 88 was a purists delight, but Punter’s brutal assault of 4 fours and 8 sixes left scars not only the 11 Men in Blue on the field but the billions who were expecting their countrymen to bring the World Cup home again after 1983.
Match: New Zealand vs Australia,
Date: March 5, 2005
Venue: McLean Park, Napier
A cold-blooded onslaught of 91 off 61 from Adam Gilchrist was just the beginning. Skipper Ponting spanked Kiwi bowlers to submission on his way to scoring unbeaten 141 of 127 balls. All the Kiwi quick bowlers were made to look like junior net bowlers as Ponting’s near-perfect clean hitting handed the hosts a 5-0 whitewash too. Gilly’s presence in the park overshadowed Ponting’s brilliant exhibition. But once the wicketkeeper was back in the pavilion, Ponting made it his show. Australia scored a mammoth, out of reach 347.
Match: South Africa vs Australia
Date: March 12, 2006
Venue: Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg
This is the story of GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) ODI match. The Wanderers Stadium was probably like a high-performance steroid to Ricky Ponting, whose last ODI innings at the stadium in 2003 was a sensation and on this one was simply a notch higher. The Australia skipper put up a sublime display of sophisticated slogging scoring 164 runs from 105 balls. This was marked by 13 boundaries and nine sixes. Australia recorded a world record score of 434/4. But South Africans’ reply was a notch better, thanks to a tipsy Herschelle Gibbs. He gatecrashed Ponting’s moment of glory and made it a Rainbow Nation party.
Match: Australia vs New Zealand, 3rd ODI, Chappell-Hadlee Trophy
Date: December 20, 2007
Venue: Bellerive Oval, Hobart
With intent to get back the Chappell-Hadlee trophy to his country, Ponting was on a definite mission. And he ensured that he got the job done from his team by leading by example. In the three match series, the Australian skipper scored back-to-back hundreds to complete his revenge. The unbeaten 134 was the platform of the resounding 114 runs win over their neighbours from Down Under. Ponting tackled the unreliable pitch with panache bringing up his 25th ton.
Match: India vs Australia, World Cup quarter-final
Date: March 24, 2011
Venue: Sardar Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad
Perhaps Punter was to raise his hands celebrating the ton the last time. His last of 30 ODI centuries came against India in the World Cup quarterfinal. His first century in 13 months could not have come on a better occasion. But he didn’t imagine it would be his last and probably be on the losing side. Perhaps it wasn’t typical Ponting century, but then Ponting wasn’t the Ponting the batsman world feared then. Ponting had to deal with age, expectations of defending the title and what not. In the end, his 104 that day wasn’t enough, but still he remained the hero. And that was probably the beginning of the end of world’s best ever No. 3 batsman’s career...