Newly retired Ricky Ponting says while India's Sachin Tendulkar was the best batsman he played against, West Indian Brian Lara was the opponent he feared most.
Ponting pulled stumps on his Australian record-equalling 168-Test career at the conclusion of the third Test loss to South Africa in Perth on Monday.
In 17 years of Test cricket, which produced 13,378 runs at 51.85 and made him the second-highest runscorer in Test history behind Tendulkar, Ponting said the pair stood out as his highest quality opponents.
On the best batsmen he’s played against:
I feel Sachin was the best player I played against and that's coming from more of a captain's point of view as well, knowing he had so much success against us in our conditions and their conditions.
I probably lost more sleep on the eve of games against (Brian) Lara because I knew he could single-handedly win games. The way I judge players has always been on their ability to win games by themselves. Lara could certainly do that and he did it probably more than what Sachin's done for India.
You've got to put (Jacques) Kallis in that bracket as well. You put his wickets on top of what he's done with the bat. He came out the other day to bat and I looked at the board and he was averaging 57 in Test cricket. That's remarkable considering the amount he's had to bowl and all that sort of stuff. I've been pretty blessed to play in the era with so many great batsmen, and if my name gets mentioned among them, then that's great.
On the bowlers who’ve troubled him the most:
I think Curtly Ambrose and Wasim Akram were probably the two outstanding quicks that I faced, and for different reasons. Ambrose for his ability to just make you feel like you couldn't score off him for long periods of time, never felt like he was going to bowl you a bad ball. Akram for the exact opposite, you could get a few runs off him, but you just knew there was an unplayable ball around the corner, be it with an old ball or with a new ball.
Harbhajan's probably the other one who caused me as much grief as anything. He got me out a lot of times and caused me a lot of grief. Those guys through their careers can all put their hand up and say they had my measure. (Harbhajan dismissed Ponting 10 times in Tests, the most by any bowler).
On his retirement:
I have put a lot of pressure on myself to perform, it has always been about big games and big series for me. I haven't been able to deal with (pressure) as well of late as I would like to. Normally when those big moments come around I have been able to find something, and I haven't been able to do that for a while now.
I'm a realist and I realise now that my best cricket is probably past me. As hard as I have tried over the last couple of years to find my form again and re-establish myself, I haven't been able to do that.
It would have been nice to have played one more Test but the decision has been made and I'm disappointed not to have contributed more this week. It's probably been the toughest Test match I have played.
On the Perth loss to South Africa:
We know that one poor day in the entire series has cost us the series and the chance to get to number one in the world, which we all have worked so hard for and wanted so much. That is Test cricket though, you have to take your opportunities.
We had some opportunities in Adelaide to get a win and go 1-0 up and maybe things might have been different. The fact they have beaten us at home and England at home in the last two series shows they are dominating world cricket.
They are a very good cricket team, we had to play very good cricket to win the series and we just about did that for 13 of the 14 days in this series. The cricket they played on day two, that was them imposing themselves on the series and they did it better than any team I have seen before.
On his replacement:
Rob Quiney is the obvious one, having come into the series. He didn't perform the way he would have liked, but he was obviously the first choice batsman going into Brisbane.
(Phil) Hughes and (Usman) Khawaja are out there scoring runs almost every game they play now. I honestly can't see it coming from outside those three and whichever way they go you can guarantee they will have a good replacement for me.
On South Africa’s gesture:
Graeme's (Smith) gesture and the South African boys' gesture will remain with me forever. I was pretty pumped and I felt there was one last big push from me and the game was set up for it.
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The bat also did the talking