Yes…No…YES!…a lunging dive and a cloud of dirt bellowing up in the air. A man fragile but not broken, a man down but certainly not out, a man jubilant… a man victorious. The scene as Punter finally managed to break the shackles and score the Test hundred eluding him for two years.
The celebrations saying it all. The pressure, the criticism, the relentless hard work had taken its toll. Missing was the leap of joy from Adelaide 04, or the punch in the air last witnessed in Hobart 09. This was a man acknowledging his weakness, accepting the burdens of the past twenty months and how they had made him lose his ground. How he had stuttered, stumbled often even erred during the most testing days of his career and stood now a batsman reformed, a man corrected and a cricketer rejuvenated.
The seeds had been sown in the last match and it was inevitable after the Melbourne knocks. “I told a lot of people close to me after Melbourne that I thought a big score was just round the corner” said the Australian captain referring to those knocks. After a long time the feet were moving properly, the pull was under control and the flowing freshness, trademark of a Ponting master-class was back. Helped immensely on the other end by his captain, Punter finally allowed himself to release the frustration of the past few months. “Getting low scores is not the frustrating bit, as a batsman you know those are part of the game. What bothered me the most were the forties, fifties and sixties. That’s when you know you should be cashing in, instead of getting out. All the great batsman make those runs count, and that is why the last year had been so hard.”
The pitch offering no demons, the old pro dug deep in the first few minutes of each session. Making sure to let the pitched up ball outside off settle in Dhoni’s gloves, the tough Tasmanian gave himself the best opportunity to make this one count. Short periods after every little break were spent getting the eye back in. The big shots were put away for these sessions with in the session and a concentrated effort to play the ball straight was evident. The harnessed Ponting pull was effective but what really stood out was the flick.
A shot that must have given him nightmares recently was played with the greatest of authority. Too many times off-late had the veteran shifted across to the off-side and played the flick a bit too square, missing straight balls to be caught plumb in front. Not today, the patience and perseverance paying off, Punter allowed himself to play the flick straighter through mid-on presenting the full face instead of the angled bat. “I have worked hard on a lot of the technical aspects of my game, taken it apart and put it back together. Not a single day has passed where I have looked at myself in the mirror and thought I can’t improve my batting”. These little improvements along with the return of the sweep and dab around the corner were not only refreshing to watch, but also the reason behind the ex-captain’s success.
It helps immensely of course that Ponting is enjoying playing under the new captain. Lavishing praise on Clarke he acknowledged how “Pup played the best I have ever seen him play, he certainly looks like he is enjoying the extra pressure of captaincy. Seeing him bat this way has been an inspiation for the entire team.”
No words of course can aptly describe the gem Clarke played today, his maiden double-ton hitting all sorts of deliciousness levels was admittedly better in terms stroke play and fluency. The day however, as the three minute standing ovation pointed out, belonged to Pontings’ hundred. Given the stress and denunciation the old hand has endured, this knock as Punter always believed “had to come”. Whether to give the tale of one of the greatest bats of our generation a golden final chapter, or to breath new life into the Tasmanian Tiger is a question only time will answer.
Originally for Pakpassion