The Australian cricket team will remember December 10 very fondly. It was on this day, 23 years ago, that a colossus made his first stride in international cricket. He would go on to make 13378 runs in 168 Tests, 13704 runs in 375 ODIs and lead Australia to two World Cup titles and two Champions Trophy titles. On December 10, 1995, Ricky Ponting took his first step in international cricket and the sport was made richer by the dazzling strokeplay of this genius. The match between Australia and Sri Lanka at the WACA in Perth, which began on December 8, saw Australia dominate proceedings after bowling out Sri Lanka for 251. Australia was already in the driver’s seat when Ponting came out to bat on the third day of the Test.
Ponting smashed some wonderful strokes and gave the world a glimpse of his talent. He was on the cusp of scoring a century on debut but he was trapped LBW by left-arm pacer Chaminda Vaas for 96. Although he missed out on a ton, the world took notice of this talent. After a couple of fifties, Ponting achieved his breakthrough moment on the grand stage when he smashed his first Test century in the Ashes contest against England in Leeds 1997. This would lay the foundation for a further 40 centuries in a period of dominance.
The right-hander’s consistent performances saw him elevated to the captaincy of the team and under him, Australia scaled levels of dominance which were not seen in the modern era. In the 2003 World Cup, Ponting broke the hearts of a billion Indian fans when his magnificent 140*, which included eight sixes, gave Australia a magnificent 125-run win in the final. More glory came to Ponting when he helped Australia win the 2007 World Cup campaign in West Indies without losing a single game.
In Tests, Ponting was a run-making machine on three occasions in his career. In 2003, he managed to average 100 in the calendar year as he smashed 1503 runs in 11 Tests. In 2005 and 2006, Ponting averaged 67 and 88 in both years and he was the accepted gold standard when it came to batting. The year 2006, in particular, was memorable as he scored centuries in both innings of a Test twice against South Africa and helped the side whitewash England 5-0 for the first time since 1921.
The Tasmania batsman had a fondness for the Indian cricket team, blasting eight centuries and averaging over 54 against them. However, he averaged just 26 in India and never won a Test match or series there as captain.
In the final years of his career, Ponting achieved limited success and his consistency was on the wane. Although he hit two centuries in the Test series against India in 2011/12 which Australia won 4-0, Ponting struggled against other teams and ended up retiring from all forms of the game after the end of the Perth Test against South Africa which Australia lost by over 300 runs. It was a sad way for him to bow out, but his contributions in world cricket and Australian cricket will never be forgotten.
Currently, Ponting is on commentary duties for the India vs Australia Test in Adelaide and he has criticised the umpiring in the ongoing match. “I’ve said this for a lot of years; I honestly don’t think the umpires look at the front line anymore. Some of the ones we’ve seen today ... he was 4-6 inches over the line. I don’t think the umpires are looking and I certainly don’t think they were looking at those ones because they were blatantly obvious ones. And as we know now, they’ll only ever look at them if a wicket falls, which as far as I’m concerned is not right,” Ponting told the official Cricket Australia website.