Cricket Australia Items/Blogs/justin-langer/2012/12/5/ponting-the-legend

Justin Langer

Langer: Ponting the legend

05 December 2012 11

Ricky Ponting retires from the game as a legend. Few men boast this legacy. Equally few are irreplaceable, but like Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting probably is.

Yesterday's emotional farewell at the WACA marked the end of an era. 

While Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke came into the great Australian cricket team's led by Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, the retirement of our most prolific run-scorer sees the final curtain drawn on what has been a remarkable period in Australian cricket history.

Ricky Ponting's legacy is immense.  His batting and captaincy record speak for themselves; his fielding was peerless. 

In completing his cricketing resume we know and admire a man whose titled and untitled leadership, passion and love for the game and incredible fighting spirit have earned him respect from all corners of the globe.

Like Steve Waugh and Allan Border, I am not sure I have met a person who is more admired than R.T Ponting.

Two memories remind me of the great player and man.

The first was in Adelaide during the second Test match of the 2007 Ashes.

There, he stood in front of his team, like a great General.

England had made a mammoth first innings total and victory looked impossible. 

Some sections of the press were suggesting a replay of the 2005 Ashes, where we had won the first Test easily, only to be overrun by the fighting England team.

Ricky was having none of this opinion and in his usual frank and succinct way he said, 'there is not a person in the world who thinks we can win this Test match.  Let's just see about that hey."

With that, he marched walked away from the group. 

A few hours later he had smashed a majestic century and hope had been rekindled. 

Not for the first time in his remarkable cricket career, he made the impossible seem possible.

If he believed, then maybe we should all believe.

Two days later when Mike Hussey played a cover drive to complete the most incredible Test match victory of our careers, we looked at our captain in a different light. 

He truly believed and was never going to give up.  Frankly, it is not in his blood. 

The second memory happened a week later.

Walking back onto the WACA on day 5 of the third Ashes Test, he called us all into a huddle. 

Today such an act is a formality; then it was rare.  The skipper obviously had something important to say.

Gathering around our captain, he looked us all in the eyes and said, "I want us to be humble in victory.  Enjoy the moment, celebrate, but do it with humility.  The job isn't done.  Remember, we set out to win this series 5 nil.  Let's not get carried away with ourselves.  Remain humble."

For a moment, I couldn't help but think that the kid with the street fighting instincts from Launceston, Tasmania, the same kid who had started out as such a loveable rogue in his youth, had turned into Winston Churchill. 

So profound were his words that they still resonate today.

At lunch we had England nine wickets down, with number eleven batsman Monty Panesar standing between us and victory. 

We knew we were just moments away from regaining the cherished urn and at the lunchtime break were behaving like excited children on Christmas Eve. 

Two years before, we had been humbled by a resurgent England.  Out great team had been given a wake-up call.  From the moment England celebrated at the Oval, we made a vow to remedy that outcome.

Now, as we stood together at the WACA, our ambition about to be realized, the captain, one of the most humble people I have ever met, gave us a timely reminder. 

Coming from him, it made sense. 

He was believable because he walks the talk and wouldn't ask anyone to do something he doesn't do himself.  This is one of the traits of great leaders and certainly a trait of Ricky Ponting.

Away from the cricket ground he treats all people as equals.  He signs every autograph, never takes himself too seriously and has set up a successful Foundation with his beautiful wife Rianna, helping children with cancer.

He is generous with his time and his compassion towards others is legendary.

Last year he bought 12 bottles of Grange Hermitage for our departing media manager.  Anyone who knows anything about red wine will understand the enormity and expense of such a gesture.  There was nothing famous or particularly special about Lachy Patterson, except the fact that he worked tirelessly as one of the drummers within the band that Ricky had run as the Australian cricket team. 

Rick recognised his contribution and wanted to reward him for his efforts. 

Not many people think of the little things like this; Ricky never forgets to think of the little things like this.  That is why he has such an impact on people's lives.

Over the last few years it has frustrated, at times angered me, to read or hear of people's opinions on my little mate.  If only they looked below the surface.

You only have to spend five minutes in his company to see the impact he has on everyone he meets. 

Until two days ago he still trained harder and better than anyone in the Australian team.  At training he was tireless and brilliant, and his attention to detail and brilliance was both breathtaking and inspiring.

When I first came into the team as a batting coach I would whisper to Head Coach Tim Nielsen that the highlight of his job must have been throwing balls to Rick every day.  He just smiled and agreed that what he witnessed every day was pure genius.

Since Tim left, that privilege became mine.

Practicing with Ricky Ponting and watching him bat every day was like watching perfection in action.

Over the last few weeks his mind has become clouded with doubt for the future and I am sure that is why he lost that miraculous flow.

Even so, as his friend I am happy to see him bow out now. 

With so many memories and achievements the little champ has booked his place in history as one of the all time great players.

No one can ever deny him that.

He will be missed but never forgotten for his legacy on and off the cricket field.

From Perth


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
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