More than anything this week in the wake of Ricky Ponting’s retirement has been the mention of not his classic pull shot, his supreme fielding, nor his outstanding record as an International cricketer. Rather, the obituaries have been surrounding the resilient, tough and uncompromising character and cricketer Ponting was. It was because of this then, that when he said his final goodbyes to the assembled media in the bowels of the WACA- it came as a shock when one of toughest men in Australian sport broke down, struggling to hold back tears.
It was a little more than 3 and a half hours since Ricky Ponting had played his final test innings, in which he gave us a glimpse of the champion that he was, regally pulling Morne Morkel from right in front of eyes, reviving memories of old, and crisply on driving Dale Steyn for four, thanks to Morkel diving over the ball. Then mercifully, 3 balls before the Lunch break- Ponting gave himself room to tidy but hardly threatening left arm orthodox spinner Robin Peterson- and edged a ball that bounced a little more than the Tasmanian expected, and Jaques Kallis accepted the catch at first slip. With that, it was over. For a moment, after each member of the South African team shook Ponting’s hand as he walked off (another brilliant sporting gesture after their guard of honour on his entrance to the wicket), Ponting, who never asked for indulgence over 17 years, gave himself one moment of solace. He turned round, stood still for a few seconds, taking one last look at the WACA ground and crowd, and soaked it all in, arms aloft, slightly less defiant and purposeful as seen before in his pomp, when celebrating one of his 41 Test centuries, still no less emotional. It was a poignant moment. It was as if for a fleeting moment- Ricky Ponting stood above the game.
So as the man they call ‘Punter’ sat in the bowls of the WACA press room for one final time as a Test cricketer, he answered a few questions quite business like as we came accustomed to in his time as captain, with the odd splash of humour in there as well, but always forthright and honest. He told the media he had a few things to say. But one of the most uncompromising batsman, cricketer and sportsman the world and Australia has ever seen- suddenly welled up with tears as he thanked his family who had given up so much for 17 years to make him the cricketer he became. This remember, coming from a man who wouldn’t flinch at silly mid-off, less than a meter way from a flashing blade without a helmet, or duck to a bouncer. He’d pull it so brutally it almost seemed cruel.
He struggled to keep the tears contained. It was one final shock to a man who at one stage if he didn’t make runs, it would be just that- a shock. One of world sports toughest was finished. He had let his guard down. The game face was off. The tears were a demonstration. It was a side rarely seen of gritty Ponting
It was the final act from a champion, a legend, an ornament to the game.