Ricky Ponting will leave a massive hole in the Australian team dressing room.
From an outsiders’ perspective, it could be argued that perhaps his numbers in the recent series against South Africa weren’t as high as he would’ve liked, but despite that, Ricky offered a whole lot more than just a magnitude of runs.
Ricky’s aura around the dressing room, his meticulous preparation, the way he worked with the young players and his leadership are values cannot be replaced in the immediate short-term.
Even at almost 38, when perhaps someone with his record could be forgiven for shortening up their training session, he was tireless in the way he prepared, leaving no stone un-turned and often the first on the training track and regularly the last to leave.
I first got a close-up look at the way Ricky went about things when I was coach of South Africa on the 2008-09 tour of Australia. Inside the Proteas’ dressing room, we knew if we got get to Ricky Ponting, we could get to the Australians.
In that three Test series we managed to keep Ricky pretty well contained in the first Test which helped us to a six wicket win in Melbourne, but he threatened to cut us open in the second Test in Perth with scores of 101 and 99.
His 99 in the second dig was the shining light that kept Australia in the Test as his peers struggled against some great bowling from Dale Steyn.
When he fell to Morne Morkel we knew we had setup the match – he was the only batsman hanging on, taking up 257 balls when he fell one another majestic ton.
That fighting spirit was a trademark throughout his career. You knew it was never going to be easy whenever Ricky walked to the crease.
Over the last 18 months I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the dressing room with Ricky in my time as coach of the Australian team, seeing not only a mountain of legendary statistics and a tough opponent, but now a professional, tireless worker, the best ‘team man’ I have ever seen, as well as a cricket tragic!
I’ve run into few people who inhale the game like Ricky does.
He will watch every ball of a Test, while studying the bowling attack and absorbing all that while reading the grade cricket results from across Australia! Mike ‘Mr Cricket’ Hussey can probably feel a little harshly done by!
In all seriousness, I’ve quickly learned that Ricky is the ultimate professional – the most proficient player I have ever coached –and someone that everyone in the dressing room listens to and learns from every time he speaks.
Not only do his batting stats prove that he is Australia’s best since Bradman, but he revolutionised fielding and leaves international cricket as Australia’s most successful captain.
He departs international cricket as one of Australia’s all-time greats and leaves a lasting legacy.
He will be sorely missed, but welcome back into our dressing room whenever he wants.