|BORN||December 19, 1974|
|BATTING STYLE||Right Handed|
|BOWLING STYLE||Right-arm medium|
Easily among the finest players to have graced the game, Ricky Ponting was the proper definition of a typical Australian - aggressive, in-your-face and a man with immense self-belief. Academy coach Rod Marsh once described Ponting as the greatest teenage batsman that he had ever coached. Having made his first-class debut at a tender age of 17, 'Punter' as he is fondly called, got blooded into the Australian national side in 1995 as a 20-year old. He had a fairly good start to his ODI career that saw him getting drafted into the Test squad the same year. Ponting was unlucky to miss out on a century on debut in the five-day format but he had announced himself well to the cricketing world.
In his initial years, Ponting batted more as a middle order batsman before moving into the iconic number three slot that he made his own. There is no denying the fact that he had disciplinary issues early in the career but as he aged, Punter started maturing gracefully. It's from the year 2002 that his career spiked upwards in a drastic fashion, having been appointed captain in ODIs. It was an extraordinary purple patch that saw him rack up runs in superhuman manner. From Jan 2002-Dec 2003, Ponting blasted 18 international centuries in just 92 innings. He seemed to enjoy the leadership role and loved to lead by example. Subsequently, he got the Test captaincy as well.
His transformation from a very good batsman to the elite league coincided with Australia's golden period during which they proved invincible across formats. Ponting's maiden World Cup as captain ended in glory for the Australians with him rattling up a blistering century in the Cup final as his side outclassed India to successfully defend the trophy. What made the title win stand out was the fact that the Aussies were unbeaten throughout the tournament - a feat that they would repeat in 2007 as well - to make it a hat-trick of titles. Having an excellent set of players definitely helped Ponting's cause as a captain but his impact as a leader wasn't any lesser.
It seemed that Ponting relished captaining in the 50-over format more than in Tests where he did have some difficult moments, including three Ashes series defeats while also suffering series defeats to India and South Africa during his tenure. The shorter format suited Ponting's tactics a lot more than the five-day format where he often relied on the experience of his bowlers to pull the side through. Nevertheless, he had immaculate success as captain in both formats as the Aussie juggernaut rolled on in the 2000s. Apart from the World Cup titles, Ponting's Australian team also won consecutive Champions Trophy silverware in 2006 and 2009.
It won't be wrong to say that Australia's dominance in world cricket halted towards the later years of Ponting's captaincy. The Ashes series defeats and the quarterfinal exit from the 2011 World Cup were signs that the Aussies weren't the dominant force they used to be. While the home Ashes loss saw Ponting's Test captaincy coming to an end in slightly controversial fashion, he himself chose to give up the role in ODIs after the World Cup. His last year in international cricket was a bit of struggle although two centuries (including a double ton) and three fifties against India boosted his statistics a bit. He retired from the longer format in the home series against South Africa in 2012 after having been dropped from ODIs earlier in the year. He played just two games in the 50-over format after leaving captaincy.
Even after international retirement, Ponting continued to be active in the domestic circuit, topping the subsequent Australian season. He then moved to Surrey for a County stint and racked up a club record for the highest score on debut. A flamboyant shot-maker with almost all the strokes in the book, it were Ponting's pull and hook shots that went on to be his signature strokes. At the time of his retirement, he ended with over 27000 international runs and 71 centuries - second only to Sachin Tendulkar by both yardstick. As a captain and player, he went on to set innumerable records, several of which will be extremely tough if not impossible to better in the coming years.
He didn't have too much success with franchise leagues although he was part of the 2013 Mumbai squad that won the Indian T20 League. He then became the head coach of the franchise and under his guidance, they registered their second title in 2015. Although not officially a part of their staff now, Ponting still involves himself with the team. A premier batsman, successful leader and an exceptional fielder, the only thing that Ponting couldn't ace was probably bowling which he didn't care much about. His fielding was a delight to witness as he threw himself around the field with aplomb. Fair to say that he was an invaluable asset to Australia and a key member during their dominant era.