Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Ricky Ponting's homilies

  • 15 November 2013

Ponting: At the Close of Play, by Ricky Ponting. Harper Collins, 2013. Website


It has riled Australian Test cricket captain Michael 'Pup' Clarke, with 'earwitness' accounts of heated exchanges and manhandling. It's offended former skipper Mark 'Tubby' Taylor, with taboo airings of dressing room contretemps. And it's given a media 'free hit' to passed-over leader Shane Warne, who's gone into bat for his protege, Pup. All this, before a summer of cricket and angry commentators really starts cooking.

Record-breaking batsman and former Test captain Ricky 'Punter' Thomas Ponting has given a balls and all account of his decades of on- and off-field dramas, and has not backed away from the short stuff.

Highly successful athletes are often lauded for their tunnel vision or white line fever — the capacity to achieve and stay in a zone of excellence. Ponting records the personal cost of victory and defeat in a role that in Australia is traditionally exaggerated as being second only to the prime ministership. The book, I found, boasts commendable truisms and anecdotes about leadership, integrity, accountability and honesty.

I don't know how you found the 'he said/he said' accounts, Jen, or, for that matter, the 'sledging' controversies and overall 'must win' zeitgeist. I love it. The 47 'Insights' homilies add context to the accounts and subtext to how Ponting wants to be remembered (did you also catch the odd whiff of revisionism?).

Sometimes Punter dumps on mates or foes who reveal character flaws; he also 'fesses up squarely to times that he himself stuffed up. He bags gutless administrators and rages against the machine of cricket bureaucracy, and the high-end lucre that tilts cricket's geopolitics towards the subcontinent.

Striving, winning or losing the contest between bat and ball, sometimes spacking it at teammates and adversaries ... All in all, nothing I haven't seen in microcosm every Sunday morning at Milo cricket with my seven-year-old.

But there is also surprising personal growth on offer. Punter is a bloke's bloke, 'brung up' in a limited but nurturing suburbia of cricket, cricket, golf and cricket. I was genuinely touched by his acknowledgement of the role his wife, Rianna, and their daughters have played in his maturation as an adult human being.

There is also more than a hint of genuine, honest to God bereavement, as the memoirist notes the sometimes turbulent decline and demise of champions/beloved mates, such as the aforementioned Warnie, Justin Langer, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and