Tasmanian born and bred, Ricky Ponting is the Australian cricket one-day captain. He is one of the most exciting batsmen in world cricket for his ability to attack bowling of the highest quality with full confidence and an ability to score at a rapid rate while being able to play every shot in the book. Many batsmen have also met their demise trying to sneak a short single at the hands of Ponting's incredible fielding ability. Ponting's fielding from cover point is matched in world cricket only by the South African fielding genius of Jonty Rhodes.
Ricky Ponting made a meteoritic rise to the top of Australian cricket at such a young age. The fact that most players do not even get looked at by the Australian cricket selectors until they reach the age of 25 makes his emergence all the more fascinating. As a junior playing in an under 14's cricket carnival one summer, Ponting scored two centuries in two matches. Talent scouts noticed the young Ponting's affection to the pull and hook shots and asked him to play in the under 16's carnival. Upon scoring two more centuries in three games (he's not Don Bradman, you know), bat sponsor Kookaburra offered the thirteen year old a sponsorship, acting on advice given by talent scouts that he was Tasmania's brightest cricketing hope. To this day Ponting is still with Kookaburra.
Unlike many child-sporting prodigies, Ricky Ponting did not burn out. He continued making big scores in Tasmania; enough so that by the time he was seventeen Ponting was a regular state player. After a stint at the Commonwealth Bank Cricket Academy under the watchful eye of Rod Marsh, Ponting made his test debut in the 1995/96 Perth test against Sri Lanka. He made 96, falling four runs short of a century on debut1. Ponting started his test career at number six in the batting order but after proving himself and a few retirements, he was quickly elevated to number three. Although he has accumulated criticism for not taking the time to set out an innings and trying to hit too many deliveries to the boundary, Ponting had cemented himself a spot in the Australian line up by the time the 1999/00 Australian season came along. In this season he was in sparkling form scoring at an average of 77, including a magnificent 197 against Pakistan in Perth 2.
With such a rise at a young age it was hard not to think Ponting would some time be representing Australia in a leadership role. Sure enough in 2000, Ponting was elected to be vice-captain of the Australian one-day team underneath Shane Warne while Steve Waugh was injured. Then before the Australian side departed for South Africa early in 2002, the Australian Cricket Board announced Ricky Ponting would be the captain of the one-day team. This appointment caused some controversy as many pundits believed wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist would get the job. However, Ponting completed his role in stunning form winning the series in South Africa quite convincingly 5 games to 1.
Given the nickname Punter for his affection to the bet (his preference is greyhounds but Ponting has been known to frequent casinos with Shane Warne), Ponting looks like asserting himself in Australian cricketing folklore.
1. Being from Perth I was at the test where Ponting made his debut. His dismissal was on a dubious lbw decision; it was a sad end to a magnificent innings.
2. I was also at this test match and although he fell 3 short of his double century, the slow walk back to the pavilion was not as painful to watch.