The former Australian captain gives his thoughts on the Champions Trophy and his career
One of the most uncompromising cricketers to have ever played the game, Ricky Ponting made over 27,000 international runs for Australia, with 71 hundreds. His sheer weight of runs, allied to the thrilling and courageous way in which he compiled them, arguably puts ‘Punter’ out on his own as the greatest of all post-war Australian batsmen.
Now part of the commentary team for the ICC Champions Trophy, he discusses the tournament so far, looks back on his playing days, and reveals where he sees the next step in his career.
The ICC Champions Trophy
The thing I’ve enjoyed the most has been the evenness of the teams. When we first started out we felt there was probably a gulf between some of the teams, but as it’s gone on it’s seemed like the teams are a fair bit closer than we’d imagined. I love the tournament as a whole, because it’s the best eight teams playing, it’s three weeks, and you’re guaranteed to be seeing some high-quality cricket. That’s the beauty of it.
The standout players
I’ve liked what I’ve seen of Hasan Ali; Ben Stokes played an amazing innings against Australia; Rohit Sharma’s always nice to watch when he’s playing well; Shikhar Dhawan’s been outstanding, and Kohli’s scoring runs. Outside of that, I don’t have much to report on the Australian players! They didn’t show too much at all...
Stars for the future
Hardik Pandya has shown glimpses of some real quality, and Hasan Ali’s only 23 years of age and new on the scene. I’d say these two have been the standout young players in the tournament.
His ICC Champions Trophy memories
The one we won in South Africa [in 2009] was pretty special. We played England in the semi-final and Shane Watson made a brilliant hundred to win us that game, and then we got through to the final against New Zealand, and that one ended up being a lot closer than we would have liked, but we got there in the end. That win was extra special, because Michael Clarke had been ruled out of the tournament, and Nathan Bracken was injured too, so to win that with some relatively young guys in the Australian set-up, players like Tim Paine and Peter Siddle, that was a real thrill.
His favourite innings
I made 156 in the fourth innings of an Ashes match at Manchester. That would probably be the innings that I’m most proud of. It wasn’t even an innings to win a game, it was an innings to save a game and keep us alive in the series. We had to bat all day to save the game and find a way to hang in there against a really good fast-bowling attack in Harmison, Flintoff, Hoggard and Simon Jones, in reverse-swinging conditions. I was the captain and the No.3 batsman, so it was my responsibility. As it was, I ended up getting out with about three overs to go, exposing Glenn McGrath to that attack for a few overs! But we were able to hang on. After that, the 190 I made in the first innings of the next Ashes series at Brisbane, and the 140 in the World Cup final in 2003 against India.
The lowest point
The 2005 Ashes was the lowlight. Having to hand over the Ashes to Michael Vaughan at The Oval was the hardest thing to deal with. We came over to England with a really good team and expecting to win, we dominated the first Test and won really well, and then started making uncharacteristic mistakes, little things were creeping in and we got a little bit lazy, and it got away from us.
His cricketing heroes
I grew up in the same town in Tasmania as David Boon. He was playing international cricket when I was finding my way as a teenager, and he made me realise that I could actually achieve the same thing and play for Australia, so he was an idol for the path that he led for me to follow. And Kim Hughes was the guy I idolised as a player, I just loved how flamboyant he was, he took on the West Indies with no helmet! I just loved the way he played, hook shots, down-on-one-knee cover driving, he was aggressive, I idolised him the most.
The best he ever faced
I’ve always said that the best two fast bowlers I ever faced were Wasim Akram and Curtly Ambrose and for completely different reasons. Wasim for his wicket-taking ability, being a left-armer who could bowl close to 150kph, swinging the new ball like he did, but also with the old ball, he had that amazing ability to reverse swing it. He was a bowler who you felt could get you out all the time. Whereas Ambrose was the opposite, you never felt that threatened by him getting you out, but he just never gave you anything to score off, he never gave you a half volley, he never gave you anything that was short enough to pull, he was at you all the time – and as a batsman, if you’re finding it difficult to score, there’s a big chance of getting out. Harbhajan Singh probably got me out as much as anyone in Test cricket, Murali was obviously hard to face in Sri Lanka, and Anil Kumble was one I struggled with in India as well. They would be the big five.
Commentary or coaching
The competitive side of me says coaching. I’ve had two stints at it, first with Mumbai Indians and I was assistant coach along with Justin Langer of Australia for three games last summer. It just gets those competitive juices flowing again. I’ve lived my whole life that way, getting up every day to compete and to win, and I’ve missed not having that as part of my life. So I think I’d like to get back into that again, pretty soon actually. We’ll see what happens there.