Ricky Ponting hands over a rich legacy to Michael Clarke

Ricky Ponting’s (left) example shows that the best way one can inspire a side is to lead from the front and Michael Clarke is doing just that © Getty Images

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

A legend walks into the sunset – Ricky Ponting bids adieu to Test cricket to cap a glorious career. It has not only been a journey where he has scaled numerous personal peaks, but one that has helped Australian cricket rise to the pinnacle of the game. In many ways, it was Ponting who symbolised the Aussie dominance over world cricket in the 2000s as his best years coincided with their reign. It is certainly the end of an era even as a certain Michael Clarke plots a resurgence.

Ponting finishes his Test career at the very ground he made his debut. His first Test was against Sri Lanka in 1995 and he marked it with a knock of 96. The talented 20-year-old couldn’t make it a historic occasion as he was adjudged leg before on the cusp of the three-figure mark. It was heartbreaking as the youngster was a victim of a poor umpiring decision. The ball had hit him on the thigh and was clearly going over the top.

The most interesting aspect of Ponting’s career has been the way he has matured over the years. From a young and brash youngster he went on to lead his side and become a shining example for the others. In his early days, his involvement in certain incidents weren’t taken kindly by the administration. He had perhaps touched a nadir when he was involved in a bar-fight in 1999 – which saw him end up with a black eye and a three-match ban to add insult to injury.

Considering the timeline of his early days, his rise to captaincy was phenomenal. The Australian setup is very cautious while appointing men at the helm and to convince the men who matter isn’t an easy task. Despite all that, Ponting put forward a strong case that he was the man for the job after the great Steve Waugh.

Leading the all-conquering Australian side, Ponting’s own form blossomed as the pressure of captaincy didn’t deter him. The victory at the 2003 World Cup affirmed his role as the leader and his own performance in that regard was magnificent. Who can forget his brilliant hundred in the final – one that all but sealed India’s fate and won the prize for Australia? That Australian side looked unbeatable right through to the 2007 World Cup in one-day cricket.

When Ponting took over from Waugh in the Test arena in 2004, he had the task of maintaining the same dominance and stronghold over the crown. With the great side they had, Australia weren’t challenged on most occasions and Ponting led from the front with phenomenal performances. Bowlers from around the globe found it impossible to dismiss him as he stamped his authority with the trademark back-lift and meaty strokes.

In the second half of Ponting’s reign, Australia stuttered in the aftermath of the retirements of some of the greats. He had to rally a relatively younger Australian side and did reasonably well – although it didn’t match the remarkably high standards he had set early on. The defeats in The Ashes 2009 in England and the one at home in 2010-11 are ones that marred a great captaincy. That is when the baton passed to Clarke – who was always looked at as his successor.

Ponting passes on a rich legacy to Clarke and the latter has done brilliantly well so far. Like Ponting, Clarke has responded to the leadership role with prolific run-making. However, unlike Ponting he has to build the side and get them back to the top. Ponting’s example shows that the best way one can inspire a side is to lead from the front and Clarke is doing just that.

The stage is set for Ponting at Perth to get that big knock and sign off with a flourish. It would be the perfect way to go as he missed it out on that special hundred on his debut.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)