It’s a Perth start and Perth end for Reckless Ricky

2012-11-30 00:00

WHAT started in Perth, ends in Perth for Ricky Ponting. We will miss that swivel pull and the check drive down the ground, but not the runs pillaged against South Africa.

It is rather weird that one of the countries Ponting victimised the most with his Kookaburra and its various design guises, has had a big hand in ending his Test career, but the wretched pain of watching such a quality competitor going through such misery was not fitting. 

One hopes his decision to walk was not with a sword on a plank, but rather on his own terms.

There will not be a last-ball of the day century a la Steve Waugh in 2003 to extend his career by one more year. He will not be making the final journey to the Bellerive Oval to face the side whom his career began against on a hot day in Perth in 1995.

Indeed, what Perth begat to the cricket world is what Perth taketh away. The reprieves were there with his perennial run-cows in India providing him with milk to sustain him for another year.

The ease at which he tamed his 2007 tormentor Ishant Sharma, who was bowling at his fastest in his career, showed form of a man who still had plenty in his tank.

There have been many twilight flickers, but when the eyes fail and the reflexes slow down, the door is not far away.

Cricket is seeing a mass exodus of a golden generation that is highly unlikely to be seen again.

The one above can surely not grant the cricketing world such riches again as a different natural cycle needs to take hold and reshape the sport. His was a generation that made bowlers dread waking up like a young boy who has to wake in the dead of the morning to go catch an early train in the middle of winter. Over 2 100 of his 13 366 runs going into his final Test today were made against SA. 

I was sitting in a hospital bed recovering from an operation when in his prime “Punter” went about in busy fashion making 120 in the first innings of his 100th Test. It was the type where chances were gifted, but not taken.

Those runs proved crucial in the rain affected Test as Graeme Smith donated a declaration in the futile hope of a win. What unfolded was one of the finest fourth-innings 100’s. Not because of the situation as 287 in 76 overs is fair game, but the putting together of the 143 not out, I realised this one was something special.

While VVS Laxman was the fireman who walked out of the smoking building without his hair singed and uniform clean, thereby making his rather difficult job a stroll in the park, there was a mechanical efficiency to Ponting’s batsmanship. In the manner in which a German manufacturer constructs a sedanic masterpiece, there seemed to be equanimity in how Ponting’s willow-wielding was put together.

The massive front-foot lunge often gave the impression of a leg-before candidate, only to unfurl that crisp punch through midwicket and a check drive down the ground that often rendered a good length ball as a half volley. There was no violent dance, but an authorative swagger and a steely glint which signified as to who owned the turf.

I always had questions about his captaincy because of the skilled unit he assumed from Waugh, but when he was called on to take responsibility, faltering was not part of his forte. It would be unfair to call him a relic of the Mark Taylor era, but his exit closes the book on one of Australia’s greatest cricketing chapters in which he had a massive part in shaping. He was one batsman whom I had a deep, but hidden respect for, despite the pain he inflicted on the Proteas.

From the class of 1995 debutants, only Jacques Kallis remains.

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