If Eminem walked into a dressing room, and walked out like Keats, well that would be Ricky Ponting. Now that the 37-year old has decided to retire, who should we judge- Ponting the human being, or Punter the cricketer? It is a little difficult to draw the line and demarcate, unlike Clarke Kent and Superman, or Peter Parker and Spiderman. Hancock probably comes close, if we do have to settle on a parallel.
The man knew how to start a chat on a cricket field, and he didn't use words that one finds on a greeting card. But Punter was always a safe bet with the cricket bat, and could give anybody a run for their money. To watch him walk out with those hairy forearms, leading a hustler’s gait, was to register the presence of a human being who came out to play with only one purpose- victory.
Guard taken, marked with the aggression of a dog scratching the floor, field assessed, with a gaze that could give a hawk a complex. It may be tough to love a cricketer with such an attitude, but once the ball left the bowler’s fingers, the infatuation with the man’s grip on the kookaburra willow would invariably begin. Nobody can smile when the butcher gets to work. For these strokes stoke both fear and awe, more of the latter if an Australian was in the stands.
As he bent his knees, the man would lean forward and then recede, bat rising with the back lift, foot out to the pitch of the ball. When he pulled, the swivel was worth watching twice. The head would always be still. Shot decided, the bat would swing, with an arc, ready to be photographed for the archives. Perhaps, the timing of the photographer would have to match that of the batsman, for the perfect shot to be captured. Shouldering arms was a rare mercy allowed to the bowler, chest out, right hamstring at full stretch, bat behind the head. Like a bodybuilder warming up for a day in the gym.
If the ball was pitched on driving length, there is no better sight in cricket, than watching Ponting drive through the gap, with the follow-through ending at the collar-bone. When he walked into a shot before the ball hit the earth, the Aussie would go on to lift it into the air, without batting an eyelid. The man could run between the wickets, carrying his bat in both hands, probably telling the fielder that he would be faster, if he too ran with the pads on.
Ricky Ponting could catch anything that flew, aided by a mind that instinctively knew what was coming. Spitting into his hands was probably a way of telling the batsmen that running batsmen out was ingrained in his DNA. He led himself to believe that he could lead, and yes he went from ashes to dust, but never came out of a contest without showing the world that he didn’t try hard enough. He never looked lost, even when he lost his wicket, quick to get out of the way and back into the dressing room, where television sets trembled.
He sometimes spoke to the game’s ombudsmen on equal terms, in a manner that was neither pleading, nor pleasing. Ponting was definitely a cricketer everybody loved to hate, but that didn’t stop him from winning. You do not have the right to mess with me but I do have the right to mess with you. That was Ricky Ponting to all of us. He never said that, but dictated it using his body language. We just wrote what we saw.
Now that he is leaving the game, cricket is not going to be the same.
Beamer: Sachin Tendulkar’s fans should relax. Indian MPs don’t have a retirement age.
Was the author write or wrong? Do tell him what you think on Twitter.
A captain like no other
In Pics: Ricky bids farewell
Highs and lows of Ponting's career
Retrospective - Ponting's ODI career
Ricky Ponting: Select Moments