Mumbai: Hailing his former captain Ricky Ponting as a "great ambassador" for cricket, Australian speedster Brett Lee has said the Tasmanian batsman - who is out of reckoning for one-day internationals - can now focus solely on Test match cricket.
"Ricky Ponting has been a wonderful teammate, he has been a great ambassador for the game and a brilliant cricketer, almost akin to Sachin Tendulkar," Lee said.
"In his press conference on Tuesday morning, he said that he doesn't expect to play one-day cricket ever again. So I think that he has got that through his mind that he will not get a chance to play in ODIs anymore."
"In the end, it comes down to the selection panel to see what they want to do, and I know he understands fully, as he said in his press conference, that he doesn't expect to play the 50-over format ever again. That said, he can now focus solely on playing in the longer form of the game," Lee told CastrolCricket.com.
He said the two-time World Cup-winning Australian skipper would be sorely missed in the team's camp, and also pointed out the oddity that he was stand-in captain in one game (the previous one played by Australia against India at Brisbane on Sunday) and out of ODI cricket from the next.
"Ricky is obviously going to be sorely missed in the Australian camp. The dressing room will seem quiet and empty now without him. It's quite a weird feeling actually to think that he won't be around in one-day cricket, because he has always been there. He would never really get injured, so it is going to be strange without him."
"He added a lot of value to the team, both as player and captain. Even though Michael Clarke had taken over captaincy recently, Punter always offered a lot of inputs about the way the team was and ways of getting batsmen out. He was a big team player and he was always there for the young guys coming in the team, and that will surely be missed," Lee said.
"It was fitting that he was the stand-in captain in his last match, though it's quite strange that you captain in one game and then not play in the next. That is not something that normally happens," Lee pointed out.
Lee rated the 37-year-old's magnificent, match-winning 140 against India in the final of the 2003 World Cup at the Wanderers in Johannesburg as one of the finest the Tasmanian had played in his long and illustrious career.
"I have been playing with Ricky for almost 13 years now in the Australian side, and I have witnessed some of his best Test and ODI hundreds. But one of my favorite moments with Ricky has got to be the finals of the 2003 World Cup, which we won."
"The game that he played under pressure, scoring 140 not out, when we needed the runs, was fantastic. We needed someone to lead from the front and he did that as captain. I believe that is one the finest innings he has ever played," Lee declared.
"Ricky has been an absolute legend. He is the type of guy who will go down in cricket history as one of the greatest players to have ever graced the game, a guy that has always led from the front," the seasoned Aussie paceman added.