How good was Ricky Ponting?

So there was no match winning triple century. There was no miracle. Ricky Ponting was caught Kallis bowled Peterson for just 8 in his last test innings – and Australia lost by 309 runs.

The contrast to the start of Punter’s test career could not have been more stark – and not just because Mitchell Starc was opening the bowling for the baggy greens rather than Glenn McGrath, a bowler of undisputed class.

The truth is that Australia are now an extremely average test team. When Ponting played his first test match, they were the best side in the world – and became one of the best teams ever. Ricky was their run machine – the guy the opposition bowlers feared the most.

This Perth test was therefore a sad end. Unlike Steve Waugh’s finale a few years ago, there was no fairytale ending. Punter and the team he represented with such distinction are now unrecognisable.

My Full Toss colleague Maxie has already discussed how England fans will remember him; therefore, I’m not going to do the same. I’m simply going to give my own candid opinions about Ponting the cricketer and consider where he ranks alongside the other modern greats.

We all know he imitated a bulldog chewing a wasps for most of his career – but how does he rank as a player. How good was he?

As with Sachin Tendulkar, another great batsman who probably should have retired a year ago, we shouldn’t let Ricky’s recent troubles detract from what has been a marvellous career. Ponting was an extremely fine player in his pomp – which I must admit lasted for over a decade.

Just think about that for a second. How many batsmen can look back at their careers and realistically claim to have been the best in the world for ten years or more? It’s a brilliant achievement.

So can we therefore put Ponting in the same bracket as Lara and Tendulkar? It’s tempting isn’t it. In fact, most observers probably would. However, this particular blogger takes a different view. Why say a nice word about one of our most hated foes when a harsh one is much crueller?

Joking aside, I personally would not put Ponting in the ‘genius’ bracket. Was he good? Yes. Was he bloody good? Yes. Was he touched by genius like Lara? No. In fact, Ricky wouldn’t actually make my all time team (i.e. the finest players I’ve personally witnessed since I started watching cricket in the late 1980s). I haven’t even included guys like Viv Richards by the way, as he was just a distant childhood memory.

So what would my XI be? You can’t judge whether I’m being fair unless you know the batsmen I reckon were better than Punter. Here goes …

Gooch, Hayden, Lara, Tendulkar, Steve Waugh (capt), Kallis, Gilchrist, Warne, Ambrose, Wasim Akram, McGrath.

Forget about the openers for a while (that was by far the hardest choice) and the perfectly balanced attack I’ve assembled, this debate is about Ponting and the middle-order. I don’t think many people would disagree with me re: Lara and Sachin, but Waugh and Kallis? That’s far more controversial.

I’ve gone for Steve Waugh over Ponting for two reasons – even though one could argue that Punter was more naturally talented. For starters, my team needs a captain. A good one. Ponting wasn’t in the same league as Waugh as a skipper.

Secondly, Waugh played against slightly better bowlers throughout his career. Waugh had to suck it up against Ambrose, Marshall, Waqar, Wasim, Donald etc. Ponting started his career against this lot, but runs have been easier to come by in recent years. That’s why Ian Bell averages more than Martin Crowe ever did; even though Crowe was a batsman of the highest class.

Furthermore, there was just something bloody tough about Steve Waugh. He used to take blows on the body then snarl back at the bowler. He used every ounce of determination in his body to tough it out and win games.

Ponting was supremely gifted, and could probably dominate to a greater extent than Waugh, but I always believed Ricky was a little vulnerable against genuine pace. Darren Gough used to give him the hurry up big time. I even saw Alex Tudor make Ricky look like a muppet at Perth back in 1998/99. And then, of course, there was Flintoff in 2005. No England attack ever, ever, got on top of Steve Waugh.

Next we come to Kallis – another guy England fans can’t wait to see the back of. Watching Kallis was so painful because it was so boring too. However, I haven’t ranked Kallis above Ponting because I think he’s a better batsman; I think they’re pretty even to be honest. It’s just that my team needs an all-rounder. If I’m picking a dream XI I want a fifth bowler.

So what do you think – am I being harsh on Ponting or have I got this one just about right? What changes would you make to my all time team (well, all time since the late 1980s anyway). Would Punter sneak into your XI, or would he rank behind the likes of Raul Dravid and Inzaman too? It’s a tough call.

James Morgan


  • Wasim at 10 is bananas: he was once described to me by a Lancashire net bowler as the most naturally talented bat he’d ever seen in a Lancashire shirt.

    Muralitharan in for a bat, for me, to give better balance to the bowling … and you have such batting depth you can easily “manage with” Gilchrist at 6. Gooch to miss out, with Kallis moving up to open. I realise this leaves no Englishmen in the team.

    A little surprised that TFT with its extreme pro-KP bias didn’t pick the boy from Pietermaritzburg…

  • Yes an oversight there. Wasim was a late replacement for Donald. Forgot to change the batting order. As a bowler, surely there is little debate about wasim’s quality? And left arm reverse swing is the perfect foil for McGrath etc.

  • Botham was past his best by 1990 I’d say. This is essentially a team of the 1990s and the 2000s up to the present day. Got to have cut offs, or it would be even harder to choose!

  • Notably, Hayden scored very few runs in his Tests in the ’90s (the era we’re picking from). He’s very much a product of the 2000s.

    The highest run-scorer of the decade was Alec Stewart. Against the best bowling of the modern era he had a specialist-batting average of 47.

  • So is it Stewart for Hayden, or Stewart for gooch, who carried England single handedly and played on of the greatest ever inns carrying his bat against the Windies at headingly? Hayden, of course, never had to face his own bowlers! That probably added to his average ;-) any other contenders for opener?

    • Well, the first line would surely imply removing Hayden from the list, no? I think he was the ultimate flat-track bully. He was brilliant at dominating when things were in his favour – and he really cashed in on those occasions – but he was made to look like a chump when things were difficult. If you were picking a real ‘best of’ team you’d surely have to have a man for all seasons, as it were.

      Plenty of great options from the ’90s, though. Taylor, Dessie Haynes, Amir Sohail, Jayasuriya, et al.

      • Haynes best years probably the 80s. Taylor was good, but I’m not sure better than Hayden. If we’re going for a Pakistani, what about Saeed Anwar? Better to watch than Sohail maybe.

  • Steve Waugh would be the first name on my team sheet, the finest captain of my lifetime and a real underrated batsman. Your comment of no England attack ever getting on top of him is slightly awry, they did in 86/87, but he was in the infancy of his career here, on the verge of being dropped forever. The next time we saw him in the summer of 89 he was imperious, he battered us and continued to do so for what felt like an eternity. A true, true great of the game.
    Ponting always suffers for me, but although he was a fine batsman I will always mark him down (perhaps unfairly) many times he would come in after Hayden/Langer had blasted a century partnership killing the bowlers spirits, he would bat with Waugh/Martyn/Clarke/Hussey/Gilchrist who would continue to smack it to all parts, it’s not his fault he was part of a great team but it allowed him to bat with much freedom. Until Flintoff caught up with him…

    • Sehwag isn’t even the best opener in the current Indian team. In fact, he’s not really a opener at all. The man should be batting at 6, if selected at all. Hopeless against a swinging ball.

      Jayasuria (above) is a decent shout.

  • I’m older that you so would have gone for boycott instead of gooch, hadlee as my all rounder but Steve Waugh no question – superb player superb captain superb character superb choice

  • Ricky Ponting is a intelligent player & captain. Under his captaincy Australia took many cup. Specially 2 world cup in 2003 & 2007.Really we lost a good cricketer.

  • Your team looks like the one Real madrid once fielded with likes of ronaldo, zidane, carlos, beckham, etc. They called it El galictico. But, how good were they? Not so much. A great team is not composed off great individual players. Remember, Australia vs rest of the world matches. Australia won it all despite playing against the team with stars.

    The flaw in your team is the batting line up. Tendulkar is an opener; he has made most of his runs as an opener. You can’t send him at four and expect the same performance. Same for Kallis, a number 3 or 4 batsman. Kallis can’t go after Waugh!!

    With your theme, “Ponting included from the best XI”. Well, the Australian team from 1999 to 2005 and 2006-2008 was the most dominant team in the world. They were the best team ever in the history of the game, which means they could beat any team composed off players across the world. They were a winning composition. Who was the front-man of that team. Ricky Ponting?? Often, it is said that you don’t judge a player by number of runs he has scored, but by his contribution to victory–rising in the most important moment. Needless to say, Ponting has played more match winning innings than Sachin or Kallis or Waugh; therefore, you need players like Ponting who can win for you, not just pile runs for individual record. One such example, I would field Andrew Symonds over Kallis for an all rounder at number 6. He is a game changer, players who can win you matches.

  • 1st let u know how good was ricky ponting? he was a genius, for the first time rod marsh saw him he said he is the best young batsman he had ever seen and he also insisted you got to fit him in the australian line up he is that good. how many of the yongsters could sneak into the australian team of late 90s and early 2000s. 2nd he is the most under rated and hated legend i have seen oh there is a reason also, because he never did beg his runs like others he always snathched them with his grit.

  • I would never have Brian Lara in my “best xi” – he was a great bat, but he was not a team player, created a bad atmosphere in the dressing room (can you image Alistair Cook telling the selectors that if he wasn’t captain, then he would not play – that’s exactly what Lara did, and he was a poor captain as well) and he would selfishly bat for himself only (e.g. his record score v England was all about him and not winning a test for WI). To have Lara over Ponting for those very reasons is degrading a great team player, batsman and captain like Ponting.


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