By Mikhail Vaswani - Presenter, Neo Sports
If consistency is the name of the game, then let's give it to a captain who has batted his way to becoming Australia's undisputed numero uno for the highest number of Test runs.
If captaining a side makes for a huge responsibility, then scoring at will under pressure situations with the thinking cap over a period of 5 years is a lot more tougher. Ricky Thomas Ponting slips into this mould with utmost ease and comfort only to go about completing his task in commanding fashion.
So at Edgbaston once Ponting eclipsed Allan Border's record for the highest run-getter by an Aussie in Tests, the 34 year old gave us another reason to celebrate the legend. He may have fallen for 38 runs on day 2 of the Edgbaston Test, but one Ponting moment gave the Aussie fans a reason to forget about Australia's disastrous start on the morning of day 2.
The first Test at Cardiff was testimony to the fact that Ponting has dipped his toes in a lake of copybook and conventional cricket. His 150 highlighted his application, patience and great resilience. Leading from the front is an age old cliche, but leading from the front consistently for a period of more than 5 years tells a lot about a player's mettle and resolve.
Ever since Ponting became the captain of the Test side in 2004, Australia have tasted success in 38 matches of the of the 59 Test matches he captained - that is an impressive win percentage of 64.5. Understandably the Aussie captain carries with himself a very high degree of assurance in his batting and undoubtedly over the last decade he has indeed provided the midas touch for Australia.
But a much more revelaing stat is Ricky Ponting's own performance as captain during this tenure. Punter has scored 5439 in 59 Test matches at an impressive average of 54. And to top it all, the 34 year old has accumulated 18 hundreds and 25 fifties.
So its fair to say that Ponting is most successful performing contemporary captain, not forgetting the manner in which his Aussies dealt a clinical 5-0 whitewash to regain the Ashes in 2007.
There is but one step from the sublime to the ridiculous, but Ponting rarely gets a foot wrong. So if 96 runs in his Test debut in 1995 against Sri Lanka at Perth was a prelude to what the world was going to witness, then Ponting's willow has yielded 11188 runs from 134 Tests with 38 centuries and 43 fifties.
In youth we learn, in age we understand. And that is how he progressed from being a fearless hitter to become a consolidating batsman.
A frontfoot player who believes to counter-attack even when his team is on the backfoot. Even in the 2009 Ashes series the 34 year old is unprepared to take a backward step despite his cricket being governed by a lot more controlled aggression. With his sharp cricketing acumen, Punter has infused that vital component in his bid for an Aussie revival in this Ashes and his century in the series opener needs significant praise.
Call it a phase of transition in the Aussie era, or a downward slide in the Aussie aura, Ponting the performer continues to make Test cricket an exciting prospect.
Close to 15 years of passionate and dominating cricket later, the back lift, swing and the follow-through comes out with the same intensity, passion and enthusiasm. That's why even today every four by the Aussie captain is intercepted by a huge encore in Australia.