Cricket: Legendary batsman Ricky Ponting retired from all forms of international cricket today, prompting a wave of tributes from the sport’s leading figures.
Ponting confirmed that he will end his 17-year international career following this week’s Test series decider against South Africa in Perth.
“I haven’t been performing consistently over the last 12 to 18 months,” said Ponting, who retires as the second highest run scorer in Test history behind Sachin Tendulkar.
“I believe now is the right time. This is a decision not made by the selectors, it was made by me.”
The news prompted a tearful response from Aussie skipper Michael Clarke, who choked as he praised his predecessor.
“I didn’t have a feeling it was coming,” said Clarke. “Ricky spoke to me after (the second Test against South Africa in) Adelaide and obviously made his decision over the last few days.
“The boys are obviously hurting right now. He’s been an amazing player for a long time.”
Asked how it might affect the team ahead of the Perth Test, which begins tonight, Clarke added: “It will only give us more inspiration.”
Ponting will move level with Steve Waugh’s Australian record of 168 Test caps in Perth before signing off with more than 27,000 international runs.
He has a lengthy list of other records to his name — he is the second-leading Test run scorer, has captained a record 48 wins in the longest version and won two World Cups without losing a game as skipper.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith spoke of his respect for his long-time rival.
“Initially it was a bit of a shock ... I’ve played a lot against Ricky and he’s the most competitive man I’ve ever played against,” he said.
“I think the way he played the game, the intensity with which he played the game, is a credit to him. He’s always represented Australia with a lot of dignity and a lot of skill.”
Former England captain Michael Atherton added: “He’s right up there (with the best ever) — averaging more than 50, the second-most Test runs and more than 40 hundreds.
“But I don’t think of him so much in a statistical way. He was just a great competitor for Australia.
“His game’s never been just about an accumulation of statistics. His prime motivation has always been to help Australia win Test matches.
“He’s an ultra-competitive, hard-nosed competitor on the field but a nice man off it ... a peerless competitor.”