I’ve never appreciated Ricky Ponting as much I really should.
It’s hard to put a finger on the reasons why. He surpassed Alan Border’s run scoring record years ago, yet I still hold AB in much higher regard. Maybe it’s because having become aware of cricket in the late 80’s, a time when even New Zealand used to start clear favourites (even in Australia), I never expected an Australian to play well, and they rarely did, apart from Border.
After Border retired, Australia starting dominating. I can still recall my Dad excitedly getting me up early during the 95 Frank Worrell series with ‘You won’t believe it, McGrath is tearing through them’, or ‘Steve Waugh is on 190, QUICK, WAKE UP!!!’. Despite this being fresh in the memory, I got strangely used to a processional waltz to victory.
Centuries on debut, innings victories, the 2nd string team putting the cleaners through touring test teams during warmup matches. Somehow (and quite ridiculously) during this time, superhuman batting efforts seemed of less value. A Ponting double was less memorable than AB scratching out 80 against England in 1987, and certainly much less than his 200 at Headlingley in 93.
Maybe it was because, due to the talent glut, he was easily replaced whilst suspended for getting in fights in Kings Cross or Kolkata nightclubs. Maybe it was the pre-2005 air of snarling and arrogant invincibility. Or the Neil Harvey tack of flatter pitches, law and equipment changes, bigger bats, short boundaries, and declining bowling talent that made me a little flippant of his remarkable deeds at the crease. Or the fact that he was well-known long before his test debut that meant that his success was expected, rather than a privilege.
But just like the press longs for the almost ritualistic destruction of Hayden-Langer – the previously reviled yet tolerated by virtue of results pair - at the top of the order now, I might start to realise how good Ponting was in about five years time. Or maybe I’ll start appreciating him when I realise that, when he started 17 years ago Ponting was averaging over 80 in first class cricket. Rob Quiney is currently averaging 34.68 in the same competition.
One thing’s for sure, as illustrated in this Daily Mash article, most of the cricketing world are happy to see the back of him.