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Punter exits a living legend, says Waugh


Daniel Lane

"I liked batting with him, I consider him one of the best teammates I've ever played alongside" ... Steve Waugh, left, ...

"I liked batting with him, I consider him one of the best teammates I've ever played alongside" ... Steve Waugh, left, on Ricky Ponting, right. Photo: Ray Kennedy

WHEN his former teammates gathered on Thursday it was to hail Ricky Ponting and not bury him, yet to a man Steve and Mark Waugh, Glenn McGrath, Justin Langer and Brett Lee dug deep to explain the grit and grace that made him one of Australia's finest cricketers.

Steve Waugh believed Ponting thrived on adversity, Mark Waugh described him as one of the best he'd played alongside, McGrath paid tribute to a rare determination, Langer said he'd be forever mentioned alongside Bradman and Greg Chappell while Lee likened him to a ''prize-fighter''.

''Coming from that tough, working-class area of his in Tasmania he has that street-fighter mentality, he's a tough character who we saw battle through injury,'' Lee said. ''There was a feeling nothing could hurt Ricky Ponting. Nothing. Think back to when [Steve] Harmison hit him at Lord's and split his face. Ricky looked down and saw blood, got stitched up and carried on batting.''

Ponting had a seemingly thick hide but was it enough to protect him from the slings and arrows of the past few weeks as critics called for his head? Mark Waugh couldn't help but wonder if his recent dismissals - and not the criticism - forced ''Punter'' to confront an uncomfortable truth.

''Ricky would know better than anyone when the right time was.'' he said. ''I think he would be disappointed with the way he's batted in the Tests and that probably brought forward his retirement [because] I think he had his sights set on going to the Ashes in England next year. Like any batsman his career revolved around his form and how many runs he made. He'd done what he was told to do, he batted well for Tasmania in the Sheffield Shield, but unfortunately he came up short with his dismissals in Adelaide … he would probably have been affected by the way he was dismissed; the over-balancing and falling over would've made him think long and hard.

''I liked batting with him, I consider him one of the best teammates I've ever played alongside.''

Steve Waugh, who was proud he and Ponting will be the only two Australians to have played 168 Tests, said it was right to celebrate a brilliant career.

''He's been a fantastic player and leaves the game a living legend,'' he said. ''You tend to remember the great stuff. A cricket career with such longevity will have ups and downs and I always prided myself on how I came back from adversity and I think Ricky is the same.''

McGrath admitted he felt some nostalgia upon hearing Ponting's decision to retire. ''It's the end of an era,'' McGrath said. ''Ricky is part of that old era that is drawing to a close … I have a huge respect for Rick and would have him in any team I played in.''

Langer said Ponting formed the holy trinity of Australian batsmen with Bradman and Chappell but added he had earned an even greater accolade. ''The person,'' he said. ''His passion and humility for the game made him a person you'd stand alongside in the trenches. He's an incredible person and is one of the greatest ever cricketers in the history of the game''.

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