Ricky Ponting describes the Ashes as “the pinnacle of the game” and crucial to the welfare of Test cricket.
The former Australia captain notched 20 Ashes victories and eight Ashes hundreds, and piloted the 5-0 thrashing of England in 2006-07, which brought their fierce rivals crashing back down to earth after the Ashes fever of ’05.
But having lost three Ashes series as captain, Test cricket’s most-celebrated battle bore just as many lows and it did highs for Australia’s former No.3; the lows immortalised by the infamous run-out by sub-fielder Gary Pratt in one of the greatest Test series of all time.
Despite the occasional slump, there’s little doubt that Ponting, 42, is one of the finest Test batsmen of this millennium. 168 Test matches yielded 13,378 runs at 51.85, which included 41 hundreds. In 35 Ashes Tests, Ponting scored 2,476 runs at 44.21.
So, what did the Ashes mean to Ponting? “Ashes cricket was always the pinnacle of the game for me,” he says. “I’ve always held Test cricket on a different pedestal altogether. The reason I wanted to play the game was to be involved in Ashes cricket. Any other young Australian would say the same; they grow up watching Ashes series and understand its enormity – not only what it means for Australia and the players but for the Test game on a world scale.”
The Australian great, who will be part of the BT Sport commentary team this winter, is excited by the series ahead, even if this majestic battle has seen better line-ups. “The amount of media, spotlight and speculation that goes into the build-up of an Ashes series is far greater than any other series you play,” says Ponting.
“These two teams might not be the best teams in the world, but I don’t think it matters when you go into the Ashes, because you just know that you’ll have 22-25 blokes over the course of the next few months who are going to be putting everything on the line for their team to try to hold that Ashes urn up in early January. I think the team that has the senior players that have the most impact in this series will end go on to win it.”
Ponting’s fighting talk has not ceased now he’s his illustrious career has come to an end. “It’s what Ashes cricket and Test match cricket is all about – stand up, execute and perform your skills at their optimum over a long period of time,” he says. “If you don’t do it, you’ll be found out when the pressure of an Ashes series falls upon you.”
It’s all getting a bit exciting, isn’t it?
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