Ricky, Natalie and I

You have your youth as long as you can hold onto it, unless you are one of those types who were born 32 years old. For the rest of us we cling onto objects and icons to stay young. The two that always stood out for me were Ricky Ponting and Natalie Portman.

Ponting started his test career when I was 16. He was the young pup way before there was even a pup.

I followed his career through dodgy LBWs at the WACA, scratchy knocks at number three, not wearing a helmet to face Curtly, a fight with a fence at Sydney, a fight with someone else in Sydney, a dropping from the team, that terrible goatee, getting wickets with gentle outswing, the face of Milk in Tasmania, the centuries coming in, vice captaincy, bhajji, runs, world cup finals, grumpiness, backing his team, captaincy, bad captaincy, over rate problems, losing an ashes, winning more world cups, more runs, more bad captaincy, losing faith in spin, losing another ashes, losing the number one spot, winning a pointless trophy, losing cricket matches to every one, and losing the Ashes again. I saw the best and worst of him.

Ponting and I have a few similarities, leaving school early, flirting with the idea of becoming groundsmen, quick to anger, hugely defensive when criticized and painfully working class upbringings. Even with this we’re probably nothing alike, and I doubt we’d ever be friends, but there is some sort of link there from me watching him for half my life.

As a batsman he was one of the best I have seen, or will ever see. When he was in control of his game, he was in control of the test match. He didn’t bat for time or records, he batted for his team, and there are few champion batsmen like that.

As a captain he got better as his team got worse. When he started he was a confused man with a lot of help from others, then he learnt how to trust himself and became a modern test captain with little flair, trust in his bowlers or need to attack.

On the last day of the boxing day test he walked off the ground to the foo fighters singing “there goes my hero”. At the time the song was being played for the English team as they sprinkled their way around the ground to bathe in the glory that Ponting has not seen for a long time.

The song wasn’t for Ponting, he probably didn’t even here it being played, but for so many fans of Australian cricket you couldn’t have picked a better song. Ponting will always have something that Michael Clarke, or any of the next generations of captains, won’t have. Aussie cricket fans felt like he was one of them. Even if they didn’t like what he said or did, they had that same bond with Ponting that I felt. For so many they felt an instant connection with them that never left.

When he played the worst shot I’ve seen from him the day before, I felt sick, not bullshit sick, but really ill. My stomach tore up, I got a headache, and wished I was somewhere else. I thought that was the last time I’d see him bat in a test match.

For years I have abused him for his captaincy, boy’s club, misuse of bowlers, and the bubble he lives in. I’ve called him the hairy armed troll, doubted that he wanted to win as much as he said he did, and got angry with so much of what he had to say. As a captain, I could never get completely behind him, so I wouldn’t miss that.

It was as a batsman I’d miss him. From the first ball I saw him face I’ve always treasured watching him bat. His batting is Australia to me. Not Australian cricket, but all of Australia. You couldn’t see Ponting bat and think he was from anywhere else. His batting says more about Australia than the national anthem or Australia day.  It is my Australia.

There will be those who pick Trumper, Ponsford, Harvey, Bradman, Border or Waugh, but for better or worse, Ponting is mine. We picked each other. He was my Australia, the best and worst of it. The Australia I love and despise.

At about the same time Ponting did a dirty drag on, Natalie Portman’s pregnancy was tweeted around the globe.

Portman and Ponting really came into my life at about the same time. In many ways I wanted to be with one and wanted to be the other. Those days are long gone.

Portman’s pregnancy didn’t really affect me at all. Ponting’s bad shot and exit from the G hurt me. This was my ground, and I felt like a part of me was leaving it for the last time.

Ponting might be back in test cricket, he could even play again at the G a few more times. He is someone who I’d never write off, but the best of him is gone. I felt older when he went out than I ever have in my life. The Ponting I grew up with doesn’t exist.

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42 thoughts on “Ricky, Natalie and I

  1. Nicholas Williams says:

    I feel like I’ve just seen a man have a bit of a breakdown through words but I couldn’t agree more, in my lifetime Ponting is and was Australia. A Ponting innings said more than Neighbours, Kylie Minogue and spiders that would kill you ever could…

    The difference was that I wanted him out as much as I would grudgingly accept the genius of his batting so I’m left knowing the only man to lose three Ashes in my lifetime was also one of the best batsman I’d ever seen.

    Thankfully he wasn’t my hero!

  2. golandaaz says:

    well said.

    I almost like him more after reading this..but it will pass

  3. Govind Raj says:

    After the Rahul Dravid Balls Profile,

    Jrod,

    This is your ‘BEST PIECE’ of creative writing. Take a bow !

    Hats off !

    But a warning…

    When you write and rate a No. 3 Batsman as the best, look at some of those very closely related issues you can’t wish away !

    Like…

    Who came before you; Not every team had Hayden and Langer !
    Who came after you; Waugh, Hussey – Part-1, Gilly, Martin didn’t play a small role !
    Who you didn’t face all your career; McGrath, Lee and Warne never haunted him !
    Etc…

    I don’t deny Ponting was a great player; but even at his best, he would have struggled with a lesser team and that is what he is doing now !

  4. MaverickCrew says:

    You know when Ponting really leaves there will be an avalanche of articles written about him, but I reckon this will trump any article that will ever be written about this great player. I can truly empathize with JRod. I know how I will feel when Sachin leaves the game, that day will be one of the worst days of my life am pretty sure about it. So I totally understand what you mean.
    Love him or Hate him but you can’t deny the fact that this man is truly one of the greats in the modern era.
    Come to think of it, just imagining an Australian side without Ponting kinda feels weird. I’m surely gonna miss the pull shot and his furious nail biting face on the field. I just think he deserves a better departure if indeed the G was his last test (I hope its not).

  5. knowledge_eater says:

    Excellent, beautiful to read, I rarely get wow smile on my face, when I read cricket piece. I got one again today.

    And Happy New Year. You started with the bang. :D

  6. jay says:

    That was quite moving, and I am as traumatisised as you about Natalie Portman’s pregnancy.

  7. Max says:

    Didn’t realize he meant so much to you, Jrod! I don’t like him anymore becoz of this piece…but I think I like you more! (and can empathize with your sadness…the fate of all sports fans)

    One of my most vivid early memories of Ponting are from a triseries in Sharjah…1998 i think…when a bowler (think it was the Indian bowler Srinath) bowled short at him, and Ponting miscued a pull which hit him on his helmet. The bowler politely put up his hand and asked Ponting if he was ok…and the reply?? Ponting raised his bat towards the bowler and with an angry scowl told him to fuck off and bowl!

    And that’s the reason I dislike “sportsmen” like Ponting…coz they stoke ill-will and resentment between nations by their conduct & actions…which is the greatest disservice you can do to your sport and your country.

    So maybe some Australians consider him a batting champion unlike any other…but I prefer Lara, Laxman, Tendulkar, Gilchrist, Sehwag over him any day of the week. They were /are champions for their teams…and even more…champions for their sport.

  8. s.singh says:

    POA for Ponting ::

    1. Relinquish captaincy

    2. Make sure M Clarke gets it

  9. SpryCorpse says:

    Nice one, jrod.

    Also, Ponting’s fielding. Awesome.

    I will miss Ponting’s pull shot. Throughout his career he played the pull and hook as well and as instinctively as anyone I’ve ever seen. Even in the first innings at the G he cracked a couple of great pull shots before going lamely again to slips.

  10. chasingwillow says:

    That’s a good coming-of-age story, Jrod. ;) It does, however, irk me that I’ve written something remarkably similar about Czech Republic’s ’08 Euros campaign.

  11. Nice stuff and something I felt only with footballers (Everton’s mid-80s team).

    I think there is a big difference in the few years between our ages Jarrod. To me, Punter (like Hayden) represents the first generation of players who have known nothing but body armour and helmets. Punter could lunge on to the front foot to even the quickest and then played back foot shots from a neutral position. It was effective, especially once that first half hour was negotiated, but it wasn’t a style that pleased me – it left 25% of batting skills in the pavilion, unused.

    The last of the generation that grew up without body armour and therefore commit much later to the front foot, or go fully back without so much as a trigger movement, is probably VVS and Dravid. Before them, I recall Zaheer Abbas, Sunil Gavaskar, Gordon Greenidge, Ken McEwan, Roy Fredricks etc etc etc. I know I sound like an old man saying everything was better in my day – and it most assuredly wasn’t – but Punter’s tremendous record marks a change in batsmanship in which we gained little and lost a lot.

  12. Wes ~PFCNFS~ says:

    Women get more beautiful when pregnant, so actually you should be happy about it ;)
    I noticed that when a player you’ve abused badly is staring into the abyss you write a mild, almost fluffy, melancholic piece on him.
    Wish you a good New Year, some fun at Sydney and a safe journey “home”, cheers

  13. Great stuff, you twisted fuck.

  14. Dave says:

    I felt like that about Tim Henman, and even now Stephen Hendry is a shadow of his former self with only his inner-fight stopping him from retiring :(
    Cricketer’s haven’t ever done that to me, with the possible exception of Marcus Trescothick, because I got into cricket too late :(

  15. Masuud Qazi says:

    That’s some emotional meltdown!

  16. yenjvoy says:

    So you wanted to be Natalie Portman, and wanted to be with Ricky Ponting. Hmm. Not how I’d do it, but to each his own. Ricky is a direct descendant of Border and Waugh and gumption will leave the Aussie side for a while with his exit. Last of the Moghuls, definitely. The crap to follow will only make the comparison more stark.

  17. Pratik says:

    Nice piece. For better or for worse, we all need our heroes.

  18. Rathesh says:

    Those cover drives !!!

  19. Rishabh says:

    Ricky misses you too

  20. jogesh99 says:

    You gotta be fucking kiddin – Ponting is your best Aussie – what is this , the ugliness stakes. Even there he would be hard pressed to make it to the top three.

    And now, the real debate, a whitey over-rated batsman, dominating on some favourable pitches, (couldnt play in 3 countries to save his life), whose batting disintegrated the minute he din’t have great openers to protect him or great bowlers to bail out the team, or, say Lara or Tendulkar, or even Inzamam or Dravid, who carried their teams against far better opposition.

    Even Waugh was better – though maybe you have a case in the arsehole stakes. Nah, Waugh had more perspective – Ponting wins.

    • jrod says:

      Jogesh, you have completely missed the point, he isn’t my favourite player, or the one I think is best, he is the one that reminds me of the Australia I grew up with. The word best is used to say he is one of the best I have or will ever see.

      Govind, Sachin and the Don had better batsmen around them than Ponting did, but, who the fuck cares.

  21. steve says:

    He wasn’t my hero – I don’t have one – but a whole era of Australian cricket goes with him, leaving the meterosexual Gen to pick up the pieces.

    All this crap about he only scored runs because he had Hayden and McGrath and suchlike in the team. You might as well way that they only did well because the had him at no. 3. holding the batting order together. When he came in, I always breathed a sigh of relief, cos, he would steady the batting after Hayden or Gilchrist fucked up, and give Puppy and the remainder a platform on which to feel relaxed about batting.

    As for arseholes, there is no greater hole in the great arse of cricket than the Shitface Singh.

  22. jogesh99 says:

    Agree with your last line Steve – I think he’s trying to get Aussie citizenship – and we will be really happy to hand him to you, he would really blend in with your culture.
    Problem is, he has Tendulkar’s backing, so nobody in India touches him.

    Jrod – ok, so its actually a criticism. Got it.
    “will ever see’ – youre only 30 yrs old my good man – you cricket watching life has only just begun. And it just got better, that weasel Ponting has finally fucked off.

    Ponting is like Lloyd, a mediocre cricket mind with a truly great team. The team goes, and you lay exposed. But the more serious problem now is that the whiny brits will start acting up again (beating up a team in decline is so brit macho, isnt it – their delusions of world domination will resurface).
    A little tour of India and Sri Lanka would do them a lot of good right now.

  23. Piss says:

    Great piece jrod.

    PS.Fuck off jogesh

  24. SpryCorpse says:

    Piss, you really nailed it with your last line.

    Mediocre mind indeed. Who gives a rat’s arse about his mind. If Australia had another half-dozen Ponting’s in the batting lineup we’d still be number one in the world.
    Captaincy skills are overrated anyway. Ponting is apparently such a dim-witted captain – yet he is the winning-est captain in the history of Test cricket.
    The criticism is that when he was winning it was because it was a great team and anyone could have captained it to victories. But when he was losing it was because he was a shit captain – nothing to do with being surrounded by a shit team.

    If Ponting had assumed captaincy a couple years earlier and retired after the 2006-07 whitewash he would have gone down as one of the brightest skippers in cricket history.

  25. Vim says:

    Jrod is writing about Punter’s batting, not his captaincy. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Punter as a batsman but up till the last couple of years, I’ve always felt more secure about him at the crease than any of the others.

    There’s no-one left now as this Indian Summer of Hussey’s is going to come crashing down soon.

    Talking about cover drives, for me, the top dog there will always be Rahul Dravid.

  26. Christopher says:

    Spry Corpse has nailed it for me, this Aussie team is so average it hurts.

    England are just organised & prepared and we’re hammering them. We have no really exceptional cricketers, just a settled team/squad who all know their jobs and this seemingly is too much for Australia to handle.

  27. jogesh99 says:

    The ugly Aussies are awake – doesnt take them long to show their true selves.
    Go do your barking in Sydney you white turds, its your last chance in a while to display your culture.
    Nice name Piss, so thats how Aussie mothers show affection. There are nice white fences in Sydney – you’ll have a blast.

    “Mediocre mind indeed. Who gives a rat’s arse about his mind.”
    – you wouldnt recognise one you twit, you probably think he’s a frikkin genius – and by your standards he is – he can count past 100.

  28. Piss says:

    Jogesh listen carefully.I didnt read what you wrote becourse i dont want spoillers from a brat like you.The truth is that you are one of those curry pouching,narrow minded,dumb indian ass clown who actually bellive tendulkar is the creater of the universe.Dont bother to write me back becourse i dont read .Gonna sign off in true aussie style

    fuck you mate!

    Thanks.

  29. Vik says:

    Tear rolls out. Well done Jrod. An Indian salutes.

  30. Piss says:

    @Jrod nothing racial but for the ‘betterment’ of this page you have to bann the indians.They simply sat in every where they go.

  31. Ricky Ponting says:

    Fuck off jogesh you rubbish spouting dickhead.

  32. Deep Cower says:

    We seem to have the balls’ version of Bhajji and Symmo here. Fun!

  33. Shirin says:

    JRod, honestly, I’ve never liked Ponting the man or captain, but I don’t deserve to call myself a cricket fan if I say he’s not one of the greatest batsmen in the history of cricket. And of late, I can’t help but feel for the man. I think he’s been given too much of undeserved stick.

    Your piece summed it up all… He does represent Australia. I’ve never been to the country but it does represent the Australia I know a bit about. Take a bow! Well done!

  34. Govind Raj says:

    Jrod,

    I agree to a certain extent about Ricky not being surrounded by bigger names than Sachin and the Don. Perhaps so !

    But the Australian Team of 1999 – 2007 was so God-damned good, it is tough to rate the player and team. It is like the Egg vs Chicken debate.

    For me, Hyden, Langer, Ricky, Waugh, Martin, Gilly, Lee, Warne, McGrath + two more comes across as the best I have ever seen. I don’t think even the die-hard Aussie hater can deny this.

    Nobody else had the privileges Ricky had in his prime. It isn’t just the form, it also is the team that has deserted him. I feel sad for him as I feel sad for Dravid. Both great No. 3 batters, but looking pathetic today.

    Dravid is struggling but is surviving because he has Tendulkar and Laxman behind him. Poor Ricky, who had such a cushion during his prime has nobody but Hussy today.

    Remember the days when McGrath and Warne [especially] made even 200 look formidable ? No team in living memory had that aura and that will be very hard to replicate !

    Though I never liked Ricky the player, all the talk about his Captaincy is just rubbish. He will retire with magnificent Captaincy records that will be very hard to beat !

    Finally one word…

    Isn’t it getting really racial here ? In fact bilaterally racial !

  35. Pras says:

    delusions of world domination. nice

  36. IronMonkey says:

    A touching article. Any article featuring Natalie Portman is touching, in more ways than one.

    But, with regards to Ponting – seems a little premature to start ringing the death knell, no? He is merely sitting out of a Test Match with an injury – hardly an indication that his days are numbered.

    It would be a crying shame if the Austrilian Board caved in to media pressure and sacked him on the back of one bad Test series (He did score two very classy 70s in India 2 months ago).

  37. wow Jrod…somehow Portman’s pregnancy and Ponting’s possibly last Test innings, combined has brought out the softer side of you :)….great piece! i myself, have a love/hate relationship with him…i met the man just once, when he came to my school on a promotional visit, and gave some batting tips…..as a person, he was quite charming and well mannered…i have no idea how that changes when he gets onto a cricket field……he was a great batsman and i loved watching him bat (when he was not pulverizing India/England!), but as a captain, he promoted the stereotype of the ‘ugly australian’ with his arrogance and intimidation of the opposition and umpires…..he deserved to go out on a high, as a legend….but in reality, apart from true admirers of his art, few will shed tears for him, and he has only himself to blame for that..

  38. Max says:

    Some of the rabid comments on this page…thankfully in the minority… are a disgrace to cricket, India and Australia.

    But Jrod…surely you are kidding when you say the Don and Tendulkar had better batsmen around them. From Ponting’s debut in 1995 right up to 2008, he found himself in the company of batsmen like Slater, Hayden, Langer, Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Gilchrist, Martin and even Hussey (who averaged 60+ till 2008).

    Now the Don had some good names around him too…but surely not more illustrious than the ones above. As for Tendulkar, who started in 1989, it is only in the last 8-10 years that guys like Dravid, Laxman and Sehwag have come around to ease the pressure off him.

    Actually what I find interesting about Ponting’s batting is that while his performances have diminished since the start of 2008…he averages a tad under 40 from then to now…it is only during these Ashes that many have awoken to his dimished returns.

    Still, for my money, he hasn’t played his last Test yet…at least as a batsman.

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