Life can be very cruel as the vagaries offered by it often ranges from one extreme to another. Such is the brutality of the fortune-swings that it can force even the strongest of characters into submission. Probably that is why everything, however top-notch it may be, has to slide down the slope. Its happened to Alexander, it happened to Napoleon, it happened to Maradona and it is now happening to Ricky Ponting.
When Australia crashed out of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, it was the first time in Ponting's career that he had to bow out of Cricket's topmost tournament without appearing in the finals. And the fact is that he has now been playing for more than 15 years and has participated in five world cups, winning four with two as the captain and had lost only one final is incredible by any stretch of imagination.
Sachin will forever stay well ahead of him as a batsman and may be as a sport-star too, tactically Steve Waugh, Stephen Fleming and Shane Warne can be much better leaders than him but in terms of the success enjoyed he is heads and shoulders above them all.
Like most other Indians, I too lack much regard for Ponting especially in the aftermath of the infamous Sydney Test of 2008, but there is no denial that he has forever had a spirit that embodies the gladiators of a foregone era. His spirit seeks indomitability and the arrogance sniffs of a man possessed with the thoughts of invincibility.
Undoubtedly there would be millions rejoicing at Australia's ouster but spare a thought for Ponting, who gave it all he had and still ended up losing the match. How many times have our heart bled for Sachin who suffered the same fate despite giving it all he could? Ponting despite all his failings still deserves to transcend the realms of infamy that have dogged him for long.
His century in the match against India is worth its weight in the gold particularly in the context that he hadn't scored a century in the last 13 months. He was woefully short of runs and just about when his team needed it the most, he came out restrained, devoid of his arrogance and scrapped it out almost like a king knowledgeable of his limited resources but still feisty enough to at least walk with pride intact and giving a damn for the head if it falls enroute. Little wonder that in the end he stood tall amidst the ruin.
Ponting in the Warne - McGrathera would probably have never played an innings like that for he knew that the deadly duo can win him a match with any score to protect. The days have changed, so have the personnel and Ponting seems to have resigned to that too. The bouncers that terrifies many, was once the delivery he loved to take on and the arrogance that Ponting exemplified were no where to be seen in the match. What replaced them was an old and matured leader who was committed to do his best despite knowing that it might still fall well short of victory. For once the century that he scored was cheered by almost every Indian cricket admirer and for a change he wasn't villified.
Ponting is unlikely to play another World Cup game ever, but his legacy will stay on until someone equally brash and talented comes up to replicate and probably excel his awesome tenure as a cricketer in the World Cup. Whatever he did in Sydney must now be thrown of the minds and what should be cherished is a cricketer who wanted to win at any cost and did so even when his powers had waned and resources limited. For once his achievements and his spirit needs to be hailed for there may never be another of his class and instinct.