THE winds of change arrived on Ricky Ponting's doorstep on Wednesday morning. As a gale left the Western Australia Cricket Ground sightscreens swaying, Ponting approached the Australian captain, Michael Clarke, and coach, Mickey Arthur, in the nets.
He told them, matter-of-fact, that he would be retiring at the end of the third Test match against South Africa.
Ricky Ponting retires
Former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting retires from international cricket.
On Thursday he announced it to the world, signalling the last hurrah for Australia's greatest batsman since Bradman.
''I know I've given cricket my all,'' said Ponting, who turns 38 in three weeks. ''It's been my life for 20 years. There is not much more that I can give.''
Had Ponting decided to play on beyond the third and final Test against South Africa - a contest that will determine supremacy in the most traditional cricket format - he would have stood to pass Steve Waugh's record of 168 Tests, and at his home ground of Bellerive Oval in Hobart. But he told Clarke and Arthur privately that he didn't want to hang around simply to pass Waugh's mark, or to be afforded a testimonial in his native Tasmania.
It was after a fruitless second Test in Adelaide he had begun to contemplate, and discuss with the Australian hierarchy, quitting a game in which at his best he owned, scoring 13,336 Test runs, second only to Sachin Tendulkar.
''We spoke long and hard and there has been a few sleepless nights over the last few days to reach the decision but I'm very comfortable with the decision I've made,'' he said. ''If you look back over the last 12 or 18 months I haven't been able to perform consistently. It's just been a build-up in my own eyes, I guess, of reasonably consistent failure.''
Ponting's announcement was, as these things are, shrouded in subterfuge. Clarke and Arthur were in the know a day ahead but the rest of the team were told by the man himself at a team meeting at their East Perth hotel on Thursday morning.
Ponting's wife, Rianna, and their children, Emmy and Matisse, were in the room - a gym in the depths of the Lillee-Marsh Stand - when he made it official, as were the team, who stood on plastic chairs peeking beyond the television cameras at the rear. Clarke, who named his squad for the third Test afterwards, was in tears, as Ponting had earlier been.
''The boys had never seen me emotional but I was this morning,'' Ponting said.
He departs fittingly on the same ground where, at the age of 20 in 1995, he first wore the baggy green. ''This is where it started and this is where it's going to finish.''