MELBOURNE, (Reuters) – Ricky Ponting knew his time was up when he bowed out of international cricket a year ago, but the competitive fires still rage for the former Australia captain when he imagines facing England one more time on home soil.
England’s arrival in Perth today signals the start of the cricket summer Down Under, with a four-week phoney war of tour matches, training and media hype before the second instalment of back-to-back Ashes series gets underway with the first test in Brisbane.
In seasons past, Ponting would be plotting the arch-enemy’s downfall at this time, refining his craft in the nets and champing at the bit for the day to arrive when he could stride to the crease to steady an innings with a defiant century.
Instead, the 38-year-old has spent his recent days looking back rather than forward, reminiscing over the highs and lows of a long and storied career on a book tour to promote his autobiography “At The Close Of Play”.
Fairly or unfairly, Ponting’s roaring success as a batsman and test captain has been tempered by his record against England, and the harrowing 3-1 series defeat on home soil two years ago left him the only Australian skipper to lose three Ashes series in over 100 years.
Little wonder the prospect of watching from the sidelines still tugs at the heartstrings as Australia prepares its bid to wrest the Ashes back after losing the first series 3-0 away.
“It does, a certain part of me says, ‘yeah, I would love to be out there competing,’” Ponting told Reuters in an interview yesterday. And when these big test matches and Ashes series come round, I’d love to be out there because that was always the pinnacle for me.
“They’re the moments that we all play for. When I was a young boy growing up all I wanted to do was play cricket for Australia and then obviously on the back of that was to be involved in an Ashes series.
“That was the reason I played the game was to be involved in those series but at the end of the day my time had gone. “I couldn’t play the way I used to be able to play and when that realisation hits it’s pretty easy to sort of walk away.
“The exciting thing for me now is what I have post-cricket and that’s obviously a beautiful family a lot to look forward to. To have a bit of time at home the last six weeks has been fantastic.”
Ponting has written candidly of his retirement in the book, his clumsy dismissals in the final home series against South Africa and the relief of telling his family that he knew it was time to hang up his bat.
Australia had wanted the hard-bitten Tasmanian to hold on until the Ashes, reasoning that his vast experience and value as a mentor would offset a declining output of runs.