I don’t like Ricky Ponting. I don’t like him to the extent that when we made eye contact, as he walked down the Kotla-steps, I gave him the royal thumbs down. Now I’m no Caesar, but then Ricky was no gladiator either. Also when he spoke at Mohali, I roared, “Get Symonds!” The Aussie missed a beat and the Indians glared at me.
Once upon a time I liked Ponting. When it was more about his cricket than his Machiavellian ways. That was when Cyrus Barocha called him the world’s best batsman on a cricket show. It sounded right, right that an Indian said it, and said it on an Indian show. He was the best batsman, needed to be said, not just in pulp, but on air.
And then stuff other than cricket happened. Ponting became the most despised cricketer in India. His zeroes were Diwali, his failures Dusherra. If only each time he walked back, dismissed, some ruffians could do a Holi routine on him.
Ironical, but as always, even in such times, Ponting continued to evoke – first it was his cricket, now the cricketer, if you can call him that. But what was odd, how his batting brought no joy – it’s not as if he wasn’t scoring runs, I just couldn’t care less.
All of a sudden I see Ricky Ponting swivel, cricket dance, cricket trance - moves in line with the ball, the ball aligns with his world - and in that one pull shot off Chris Broad, a million camera angles come into play (like they did for Sachin in that adidas ad). Only here, Ponting manipulates the telecast and the viewer – but then, hasn’t he always? With the repeat replays, he makes you grip bat and play shot. And it has nothing to do with Broad, or the six 6s every Indian hit him for with Yuvraj –it is one boundary, four runs, in the vast canvas of a five day game. One that will go largely unnoticed, forgotten in an Ashes’ archive.
But it will stay with me. In a small, warped way it is Ricky’s redemption - a sign that he can get back to playing sport, not just playing games.
Which is when he aligns a somewhat neutral fan like me – what will it take for Ponting to take England on, singlehandedly – to beat them into the Welsh earth, and make them forget their English roots. It is such ruthless domination that you demand of the best – and when they fail to deliver, the distractions take over.
It’s time Ponting realised that even before an administrator, communicator, he is a batsman. And a darn good one at that.
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