Career ends where it all began 

I NEED a crystal ball to write this column sometimes.

Production schedules mean some sections are printed ahead of the rest of the news pages.

This column needs to go to the press by Friday morning, hence the wish for a crystal ball, because I decided to write about Ricky Ponting's future and how the fate of Australia's most prolific run scorer could be decided if he failed to get runs in the Perth Test.

But then on Thursday afternoon, the former captain confirmed his 168th Test would be his last.

Like many Tasmanians, I sincerely hope he is able to go out on a high because he has offered cricket fans so many highlights.

My favourite was the 140 not out he smashed off 121 balls in the final of the 2003 World Cup - a masterclass that completely demoralised India.

It was the controlled belligerence that was so striking. I'd wake my dad up each time Ponting smashed a six, but gave up after the first five (he hit eight in total).

Like Adam Gilchrist's second fastest Test 100, Michael Clarke's 329 not out or Steve Waugh's final ton on the last ball of the day, it was an innings that demanded to be shared with someone, if only to confirm it was real.

Paul Kelly wrote a line about Don Bradman - the only person to cast a shadow over Ponting - describing how fathers took their sons to watch the Don as "fortune used to hide in the palms of his hands".

Ponting's hands, along with his footwork, have failed him recently. Even the most ardent fans knew the end was close.

Some, particularly those NSW experts in the media will cheer his departure.

Ponting was never the poster boy of cricket that captain Michael Clarke will be. Hairy forearms and machine gun speaking; he seemed to want to get interviews over as quickly as possible so he could get back to the nets or the centre.

That Mowbray mongrel was a positive and negative.

It threatened to derail his career early on when his prodigious talent was overshadowed by late night antics.

But it informed a ruthlessness that turned many matches in Australia's favour.

When an off drive in the 2009 Ashes series smashed Ponting, fielding in close, in the mouth, batsman Matt Prior walked over and asked Punter if he was okay.

Spitting out blood and pieces of chipped teeth, Ponting told him bluntly what he could do with his apology.

By the time you're reading this Ponting will have returned to the ground where he made his 1995 debut. The ground where he surely would have made a century if not given out leg before wicket on 96 by a ball that would have bounced over the sight screen let alone the bails.

It will be his 168th Test, equalling Steve Waugh as the most Test matches by an Australian.

It's a shame that he won't claim that Test record all for himself in front of his home crowd at Bellerive on December 14.

For a moment at Thursday's press conference, when he spoke about telling his team mates the news, he paused, overwhelmed that it was about to end where it all began.


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