Captured while being dismissed during the first innings in Adelaide, the look on Ricky Ponting’s face seemed to belie the stoic resolution on which we have come to rely. He was awkwardly over balanced and fell in a way that seemed the personification of being out of your depth. The unfortunate scene played out much like one in backyards around Australia, the fatherly figure at the crease to yet again take on the youth of the time. He had been here before and had taken all before him. Youth has nothing on his experience.
And yet something had changed. The youngsters were a step quicker, while the elder’s skills had receded. He would no longer dominate the youth; they had finally caught the old man and had swiftly moved past. The scene is a sad one, as the once proud elder is forced to relent and admit that it is indeed ‘a young man’s game’. It was not the look of the fabled ‘Punter’, the man whose legend describes a rise out of the mean streets of back blocks Launceston to the most respected position in Australian sport, national cricket captain. It’s an image of the moment a man of sometimes pure genius is suddenly receding back to mortal status, the look of a sudden, devastating, realisation: My time is up.
This is not the way I, nor many others, want Ponting to go. No, I want Punter to go out the way he should be remembered. Not as a fatherly figure of Australian cricket, seemingly attempting to hang around with the youngsters, trying to prove to them and the public that the old guy can still mix it with the young guns. I want the Ricky Ponting of old to stand up, with straight bat and a long initial step, and flail the first ball he faces through the covers for 4. Indeed, Ponting may still be a better bat than men 10 years his junior, a fact easily proved by the storied lack of suitable replacements that are not ‘banging down the door’ of selection. But this is of little consequence when witnessing the way in which Ponting was unfortunately whisked of his feet in Adelaide. The time had come for the elder statesmen to steal himself for one last charge at the younger enemy, and then relent to father time.
It is a relief that in Perth this week ‘punter’ has an opportunity to rediscover the often brutal pull shots that laid waste to bowlers feared by lesser talents. It is a relief, that after all that has been said, that after all that has been speculated, arguably the best Australian batsman since Bradman is able to play in a match that potentially offers so much in cementing his legend. Bill Ponsford and Greg Chappell, both giants of their eras, scored centuries in their final test matches (indeed Ponsford’s was a double). Ponting would suitably crown a prolific career if he could manage the same.
Kurtis J Ousley