Well Played, Mate

Book: At the Close of Play: My Autobiography

Author: Ricky Ponting

Publisher: Harper Sport

Pages: 700 pages

price: Rs 999

There is something about cricket that separates the captain from not just the rest of his squad, but also in an indeterminate yet substantial way the rest of his playing profile. When a cricketer has captained his national side for long enough, any appraisal of his possibly considerable career stats as a batsman, bowler or wicket-keeper fades somewhat against the temperament and style he brought to his captaincy. A review of Ricky Ponting's autobiography is not the place to buttress the argument by a comparative study of, say, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar. Or even of Ponting and Adam Gilchrist. But in reading this doorstopper of a book, at 700 pages, with frequent asides in densely packed text on everything from "winning" and "losing" to various lists of greats amongst the men he played against, his straight-talking account leaves you wondering about the exact nature of his special place in the sport.

The Australians make a production, a deeply felt one, of acquisition of the Baggy Green to mark the induction of a cricketer in a Test team. And as far as captaincy of the Australian cricket team went, Ricky Ponting had a tough act to follow. His predecessors had stamped their personalities on the job designation. Let alone Allan Border earlier, his two immediate predecessors were formidable. Mark Taylor had barely left the game when umpires would routinely lapse into recollections of what a pleasure it would be officiate a game with him around. Taylor, of course, also left us wondering for ever afterwards about whether it was the Australian in him or it was just him that inspired him to declare the innings when he had equaled Don Bradman's highest Test score, to push for victory and (perhaps) pay tribute to the great man. Steve Waugh brought his own brand of grittiness to the field, and he dominated the chatter with his strategising and tactics besides the charity work here in India, showing himself to be less insular towards the subcontinent at a time when his mates were rumoured to come visiting with bags of canned pasta to avoid local food.

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