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Ricky Ponting retires

Submitted by rickeyre on November 30, 2012 - 9:25am

There can never be a totally perfect time to retire. It didn't quite happen for Ricky Ponting, yet he can still be happy with the circumstances of his exit.

Today, as he steps out on the WACA for the Welcome to Country, the anthems, and the Third Test against South Africa, he will be making his 168th official Test match appearance for Australia. It will be last, having announced his retirement yesterday.

He equals Steve Waugh's tally for Test appearances, and he bows out on the ground where he made his debut, very nearly seventeen years ago.

In that 1995 Test, where Australia lost just five wickets to thump Sri Lanka by an innings, a twenty-year old Ponting came to the crease at 3 for 422. He was on 96, four short of what would have been a Test debut century, when umpire Khizer Hayat gave him out lbw to a Chaminda Vaas delivery that appeared, from the view of side-on TV replays, to be passing over the stumps. No DRS back in the 20th century, of course.

It was Headingley 1997 before the maiden Test ton came, and now, with one or two innings still to come, he has 41 of them, six surpassing the double hundred. In an era where the amount of international cricket has grown exponentially, Ponting has maintained a high standard of quality for almost two decades.

It is to everyone's credit, his and Cricket Australia's, that the exit point has come at this time. The recognition that, approaching his 38th birthday, his best form was behind him, and that he would become a liability to the Australian team if he continued.

The exit at the end of a Test series was also important. While sentiment may have suggested a farewell in Hobart in next month's First Test against Sri Lanka, the game about the teams, not the individual. No mid-series home ground departure such as those indulged for Anil Kumble and Muthiah Muralitharan.

And Ponting gave one game's notice of his departure - no season-long farewell tour as we witnessed for Steve Waugh and later Shane Warne. He's both eased the distraction of his exit and avoided testing the patience of the selectors. He'll remember, for one obvious example, Ian Healy's abrupt axing in 1999.

Has been Ponting been Australia's best batsman since Bradman? Probably. There's some great competition for that title: Neil Harvey, Simmo, the Chappells, AB, Boonie, the Waughs, Matty Hayden, and if your memory is too short, Pup Clarke. I think - think - he stands above all of them.

What remains for now is to see what the final match brings. Bradman, of course, bowed out to a googly on a sticky. WACA is no sticky and there will be no Imran Tahir in the Third Test to (cough) terrorise the Aussies. Greg Chappell bookended his career with centuries in his first and last Tests. Another 96 to a dodgy lbw for Ponting? He deserves better.