Ricky Ponting, one of the finest batsmen in contemporary cricket and Australia’s middle order bulwark for years, announced his retirement from international cricket on Thursday, bringing down the curtains on an illustrious career spanning 17 years.
Ponting, who will retire after the third Test against South Africa beginning here tomorrow, told a hastily-called press conference that he was calling it quits as he has not being performing for some time to the level he had desired.
The former Australian captain, who will turn 38 next month, has scored 13,366 Test runs from 167 matches at an average of 52.21, second only to India’s Sachin Tendulkar (15562 from 192 matches). He made his Test debut in 1995 against Sri Lanka at the same venue where he will walk into Test sunset.
In the 375 ODIs he has played, Ponting accumulated 13,704 runs, scoring 30 centuries, with a highest score of 164 and an average of 42.03. He has, however, not played in the ODIs since being dropped from the team in February this year.
Ponting said he was retiring as his level of performance was not good enough to continue in the Australian team.
“It’s a decision I thought long and hard about, put in long consideration about the decision. Over the last couple of weeks my level of performance hasn’t been good enough. At the end of the day it was about my results and my output in this series so far,” Ponting said.
“It hasn’t been to the level required for batsmen and players in the Australian team. I’ve given cricket my all. I haven’t been performing consistently over the last 12-18 months. I believe now is the right time to be making this decision,” said an emotional Ponting with the entire Australian squad by his side at the press conference.
Nicknamed ‘Punter’ by Shane Warne for his penchant for a bet (punt) on the greyhounds, Ponting has scored 41 centuries, third in the all-time list behind Tendulkar (51) and South African Jacques Kallis (44).
Against India, he has scored 2555 Test runs from 29 matches and 51 innings at an average of 54.36 with the 257 in the first innings in the third Test in Melbourne in December 2003 being the highest.
He has three double tons, five centuries and 12 half centuries against India.
The right-handed batsman, however, has a poor record on Indian soil with just 662 runs from 14 matches and 25 innings spread over six tours with an ordinary average of 26.48. He has hit just a century in India - the 123 in the first innings of the Bangalore Test in October 2008. He has five half centuries in India.
There were reports that Ponting met the selectors ahead of the third Test after failing to perform in the two games of the high-profile three-match series, but he said he was quitting on his own terms.
“I’m glad I have got the opportunity to finish on my terms. This is a decision not made by the selectors, it was made by me,” he said.
Ponting’s wife Rianna and two daughters Emmy and Mattise along with manager James Henderson were with him for the announcement. He said he would continue to play for Tasmania this season.
Ponting will equal former captain Steve Waugh’s record of of 168 Tests when he retires, the most in the history of Australian cricket.
The Tasmanian is the highest Australian run-scorer of all time and has been described as the greatest Australian batsman after Sir Donald Bradman.
Following a poor start to the Test series with low scores in Brisbane and Adelaide, Ponting said he was troubled by the “tentative” manner of his dismissals.
Asked about his future plans after retirement, Ponting gestured towards his wife and children and said, “I’ve got a few months of cricket yet, which I am really looking forward to. I really enjoyed the start of this season playing cricket with Tasmania and back with some of my mates. I haven’t spent a lot of time for near on the last 20 years. So I’ll enjoy that for what it is, but this is my new team here,” Ponting said, pointing to his family.
As for the question of his contribution to cricket, Ponting had a simple answer.
“I know I’ve given cricket my all. It’s been life for 20 years. Not much more I can give,” he said.
Addressing the press conference after Ponting left the scene, a teary Australian captain Michael Clarke was so overwhelmed by emotion that he could not answer a question to reflect on his predecessor’s retirement.
“I didn’t have a feeling it was coming. Ricky spoke to me after the Adelaide Test match and made his decision I guess over the last few days. The boys are obviously hurting at the moment. He’s been an amazing player for a long time ... and that’ll do me for today. Sorry, I can’t answer that.”
Ponting has managed just 20 runs from three innings in two Tests so far against South Africa. He has not scored a century since the 221 against India in Adelaide in January this year.
Ponting has won more Tests as captain (48 out of 77 matches) than any other Australian and has an astonishing success rate of almost 72 percent as the country’s one-day leader, winning 164 of his 228 games.
He had already called a halt on his captaincy of the Test and one-day team in March last year, but continued as a player
Despite skippering Australia in more than 300 Test and one-day matches, taking over from Steve Waugh, his magnificent innings were blighted by three Ashes series losses as captain.
As captain he oversaw a painful transition in Australian cricket in the wake of several high-profile retirements, including Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer.
But even with such greats in the ranks, Ponting, as captain, lost the 2005 Ashes in England. Despite engineering a 5-0 revenge in the ensuing home series in 2006/07, he again lost in 2009 and 2010/11.
That last failure was badly received in Australia —— it was their first Ashes loss at home for 24 years and followed a series of defeats by Ponting—led teams.
Australia lost a home series against South Africa for the first time in 2008/09 and a two-match series in India in 2010.
Ponting had a rocky beginning in the public eye and was banned for three matches in 1999 by the (then) Australian Cricket Board following an early-morning brawl in a Sydney bar.
A contrite Ponting, with a blackened eye, gave a press conference the next day to apologise, but he matured into a valued mentor in the Australian team over time.
His fierce competitiveness also brought him trouble. He was reprimanded by the International Cricket Council for damaging a dressing room television in an angry reaction to being run out against Zimbabwe at the World Cup in India.
Ponting is known as a campaigner against cancer and established The Ponting Foundation with his wife Rianna to raise money for young Australians afflicted by the disease.