Between January 1999 and February 2002, Ricky Ponting underwent a voluntary personality transformation. From being banned for three matches following a drunken pub brawl to being pushed up to Australia’s captaincy – the distance Punter traversed was huge. He finished with 48 wins from 77 Tests, and 165 wins from 230 ODIs as captain, both records that will take some surpassing. Ponting also led the side to two World Cups and played in another triumph under Steve Waugh.
Always pugnacious and ready for a tussle, Ponting had to temper his ugly Aussie instincts before he became the respected leader of an exceptionally gifted bunch of individuals. His batting remained as attacking as ever, the impudent pull shot still a cause of great worry for bowlers who consistently targeted the middle of the pitch. Over the years he took some flak for being a defensive captain - especially when he became the only Australian captain to lose three Ashes.
Ponting had the huge boots of Steve Waugh to fill. What he inherited was a world-beating side - one whose constituents shone out like the who’s who 1990s cricket: Hayden, Langer, the Waugh twins, Warne, Gilchrist, McGrath - and a golden legacy that warranted no less effort or involvement on the part of the new captain to sustain.
Ponting also led led the team to 16 consecutive Test wins – thus emulating his predecessor – but his figures started to suffer once the greats retired their way out of the team. Even in a side full of stars, Ponting managed to stand out with his batting at No.3. He averaged comfortably above 50 during his proloinged stint as captain in Tests and played several pivotal innings to lead from the front.
Ponting played under Michael Clarke in the last year or so as Australia once again began a process of renewal, in manner akin to how Alan Border had in the middle 1980s after the tearful departure of Kim Hughes. His retirement at the end of the Perth Test draws the curtain on the career of possibly Australia's greatest captain, if not their greatest cricketer since Don Bradman.