LOVE TO HATE RICKY PONTING!
I have never liked Ricky Ponting.
As a kid who watched the 2003 World Cup Finals with excessive optimism and prayers, it is hard to like him. His 140 not out, which demolished India’s hopes of winning the Trophy, was probably one of the best ODI innings played by an Australian; but I still disliked him. He captained the World XI in 2005 for the Tsunami relief match, scored another century, defeated Asia XI captained by Ganguly and became Man of the Match. Even though it was all for a good cause, I did not like him one bit. In 2006 he led Australia to a Champions Trophy victory (and pushed Sharad Pawar off the podium) I disliked him to the core. He came back again in 2007 and defended the World Champions title, demolishing Sri Lanka in the finals this time. His third consecutive World Cup Title, second as captain, what a feat. I disliked him even more. Then came World Cup 2011, he was still captain but no longer on a pedestal, he was in patchy form and there were calls for his head, I rejoiced. As fate would have it, India met Australia in the quarter-finals, a do-or-die game and he rose up to score a fluent century, 104. India managed to win the match and eventually win the Cup, my dislike deepened.
However, the more my dislike grew, the more I felt another emotion toward Ponting, something like 'grudging admiration'. The sheer power and proficiency of his game forcibly turned me from a grudge-keeper to a grudging admirer. But Ponting is known to have that effect on people. The words obnoxious, stubborn, disagreeable, ruthless are all compliments to the man. But I guess after playing 375 matches and scoring 13,704 runs at average of 42.03 with 30 centuries and 82 half-centuries and after playing in five World Cups, winning three of those back-to-back and two of those as captain, Ponting can afford to be obnoxious, stubborn, disagreeable, ruthless and anything else he wishes to be.
Having watched the press conference video where Mr. Ponting announced his er... let's put it this, his ‘non-expectation to be playing in ODIs anymore’, it is obvious he was anything but announcing his retirement. He may have spoken something along the lines, but his body language spoke a thousand words. He was sullen, abrupt and unhappy; it was almost like an invisible hand was holding an invisible machine gun to his head, forcing him to say the words that drew the curtains over his illustrious 17-year old ODI career. It was clear, he does not want to give up, he will not leave, he is among those who prefer to overstay their visit. Point to be noted, he has NOT announced his retirement as yet, technically he is still available for selection. All he announced was that the selectors have shown him the door and he is just talking to the media to make it clear that he has seen the door, but has no intention of walking through it even though he stands on the threshold.
In his own words, "It's a little bit hard to come here today and say I'm retiring when I've already been left out of the side, I don't expect to play one-day international cricket for Australia anymore and I'm pretty sure the selectors don't expect to pick me either."
He has said, in so many words, that this is not his decision, but the selectors, and that he has not retired as such, just complied with the selector's wishes.
Even in going out, Punter is obnoxious as ever. A white shirt beneath a black blazer has replaced his Australian Yellows (or Greens) but the attitude has not, will not, ever change. And therein lies the greatness of Ponting. His arrogance is a crown he wears on a high head, he is proud of his stubbornness because that has what has got him his plus 25,000 runs and every possible Trophy there is to be won as captain. Ponting doesn’t ask to be loved, or even liked, he merely demands grudging admiration. And as he attempts to walk in to the sunset, all I can say is, Love to hate you Ricky Ponting!