Cow Corner

Ponting retires as one of the true cricketing greats

It's not often that the retirement of a player prompts a barrage of tributes and tearful responses from team-mates, but that was the reaction for Ricky Ponting as he decided to end his international career.

Indeed, even Australia's prime minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott broke off from a heated parliamentary debate to laud one of crickets greats.

Ponting's successor as Australia captain, Michael Clarke, could not contain his emotions when he was asked to react to his friend's decision to quite the international game, while a standing ovation sent the veteran batsman on his way out of the press conference.

"The boys are obviously hurting," a tearful Clarke said. "He's been an amazing player for a long time ... that will do me for today ... sorry."

There is, of course, a good reason why Ponting's retirement is so significant and far-reaching: a colossal weight of runs and a huge presence as a national hero will always ensure that.

For so long the unwaveringly tough embodiment of Australian cricket, Ponting finally softened as he made his decision. "I tried to tell them [team-mates] a lot, but I didn't get much out," he said. "As I said to the boys this morning, they've never seen me emotional, but I was this morning."

"This is not a decision that's been made by the selectors, this a decision that's been made by me, and I'd like to thank all those guys for the support they've given me over the last 12 months. There were probably moments when they thought long and hard about ending my career and I'm glad I've got the opportunity to finish this way and on my terms."

The whole Australia team and Ponting's family had filed into the weights room under the stands at the WACA, and he proudly ended the press conference by pointing to his wife Rianna and daughters Emmy and Mattise, declaring that "This is my new team here".

The former Australia captain has scored a staggering 13,366 runs in 167 Tests at an average of 52.21 - the second highest haul in the long history of the game, behind Sachin Tendulkar.

Perhaps fittingly, Ponting stands behind only the great Sir Don Bradman in the ranks of Australian batsmen, and that hardly feels like a second best.

But it is not only as a batsman that 'Punter' has excelled: he is regarded by many as the greatest ever captain, leading his country to a record 47 Test victories and 34 consecutive wins in World Cup matches.

Ponting, who stood down from the Test captaincy last year and retired from one-day cricket in February, may have scored nought, four and 16 in his three innings so far in the series against South Africa, but a disappointing recent run of form should not toy with anyone's judgement of him as a most consistent and prolific performer.

The gritty Tasmanian made his Test debut at the age of 20 against Sri Lanka at the WACA, a week shy of 17 years ago, making 96 in his one innings as Australia won by an innings and 36 runs. He has since gone on to make himself one of the finest cricketers the world has seen.

But it is, perhaps, his nature as a fierce competitor for which he will be remembered, along with his scintillating pull shots and array of dazzling strokes.

For England fans, Ponting was the archetypal pantomime villain, and an essential aspect of every recent Ashes contest.

The tenacious batsman and leader was mercilessly booed on his last two visits to England in 2005 and 2009, and every player realised how much of it stemmed from the fact that he was the perennial threat.

Opposing sides always knew that Ponting's was the key Australia wicket: unflinchingly tough, courageous and outrageously talented.

Ponting will never be allowed to live down the fact that he became the first Australian captain in more than a century to lose three Ashes series, but that statistic should not be allowed to cloud what has been one of the great careers.

No one was left in any doubt that Ponting had been able to finally let go of his playing career on the biggest stage, with the sense of relief palpable. "I know I've given cricket my all," he said. "It's been life for 20 years. Not much more I can give."

His final act as an international cricketer will come in Perth, with the match starting on Friday, and he will equal Steve Waugh's formidable Australian record of 168 Tests.

Ponting will quit the international game after this week's third and final Test against South Africa at the WACA in Perth, and if Australia can regain the number one spot in the Test rankings then it would be a fitting end to the career of a true cricketing great.

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The tributes poured in on Twitter...

"Putting Ponting in context: 41 Test centuries, most by Englishman 22. Career runs 13,366 + one more Test, highest ENG aggregate 8900." (@MitchellGlenn - Australian cricket writer)

"I batted with Ricky once at the MCG, what a great experience that was, 4 such a great cause Tsunami victims. Enjoy ur family, your new team." (@BrianLara)

"What a player,entertainer of note and an all time great ricky ponting! Always loved his approach to batting... #legend" (@Hershybru - Herschelle Gibbs)

"Congrats to Ricky Ponting on an amazing career, well done Punter...Enjoy your last match in Perth buddy, was a pleasure playing with you !!!" (@Warne888 - Shane Warne)

"Congratulation to Ricky Ponting, one of Australia's all time great sportsman, Cricketers and Guy. Hero to us all. #ponting #great#superstar" (@RealIanHealy)

"The best batsman I had the privilege to play against ... Ricky Ponting... #Punter Australia cricket will not be the same without him..." (@MichaelVaughan)

How will you remember Ricky Ponting the cricketer, the leader and the villain? Leave your comments below...