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Finishing well – what Ricky Ponting can teach Australia!

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Cricket - Ponting retirement press conference

I was so rapt to hear about Ricky Ponting’s retirement.

I was truly disappointed for him that he didn’t have the form to warrant two more Ashes’ series. But I was happy for him that he is able to finish well.

Even if he fails both times in this final test against South Africa (and it looks like that may indeed be the case*) and we fail to take the mantle of the number one test team in the world (ditto**), there will be little gloss taken off the careers of one of the greatest batsman this country has ever seen. (*Blogger’s note – didn’t like being right on that one…) (**ditto!)

Finish well

It’s great to be able to finish well. Whether it be the end of a school year, a job, even a relationship … ok, maybe not a relationship! But it’s important that the positive characteristics of a long-term project are not marred by an ugly finish.

If Ponting had gone to England and we get smacked, as is very very likely, and then we come back here to face the Poms on our own soil and ditto the smacketh, there will be hell to pay. Need further proof? Less than a week ago, we were two lousy balls away from becoming the best team in the world. On Sunday, South Africa asserted themselves and boom, in Monday’s paper, there’s an article saying what’s wrong with the national squad.

What’s wrong with the squad!? We’re facing the best test nation in the world, who won’t just roll over and die like so many other weak opponents over the last two decades! We’re in a contest! Enjoy it and stop the whinging! There … I feel better. Thanks.

Whinging - stop it!

Because of our insatiable appetite for ongoing success as an over-nourished sporting animal, Australia would not have accepted repeated failure by a middle order batsman, regardless of the countless times he has scored test centuries – 41! – or how many runs he has absolutely carved up over his career – over 13,000, at an average of over 52!

We would have remembered him as a great, yet as a sportsman who should have let go a long time earlier. Many of his incredible achievements – leading us to Test series wins, upholding our mantle for some time as the no. 1 team in the world and multiple World Cup victories as our best-performed player, would be tarnished because he held on for too long.

A familiar sight...

A familiar sight…

Is that unfair? Well, no, not in some ways. You’re judged over the entirety of your career? You want to be remembered as a great, go out on top. In Ponting’s case, that’s too late. He stopped seeing the ball well 2-3 years ago and it’s showed. We all knew it when he fell over being bowled by a beauty from Jacques Kallis. So did Ponting.

Great sportsmen deserve better than for that to be the picture we recall when their name is mentioned. Far better to get out now than to have subsequent embarrassments at the hands of the enemy; England.

How’d these guys finish up?

We should all remember Michael Jordan’s last play being the shot against Utah to clinch the ’98 title, not the overweight shadow who played for Washington between 2001 and 2003, putting up 50 one night, 8 on others, depending on how his overused knees were faring. Hey look, season averages of 22 and 20 points are nothing to sneeze at, but this is MJ. Not some ham and egger who shoots too much and can’t keep up with a team who didn’t make the playoffs.

Not how the great man should be remembered...

Not how the great man should be remembered…

What is it with NBA centres?!

The great Shaquille O’Neal – Shaq – kept on piling up the seasons well after he should have been in the announcers’ booth entertaining millions with his wit and candour.

I saw him in person in his prime in 2001 alongside Kobe and I was awestruck by his strength, speed, power and touch. An absolutely phenomenal experience that I will never forget or regret. We should remember Superman / Big Diesel / The Big Aristotle for his freakonomic play in Orlando and LA.

However, from 2008 – 2011, Cleveland, Phoenix and Boston all were ‘fortunate’ enough to have the once most dominant big man in the game by far, a shell of his former self, bricking free throws and lumbering up and (sometimes) down the court before yet another injury derailed his plans.

Shaq - putting the 'big' back into 'big man' in his latter years.

Shaq – putting the ‘big’ back into ‘big man’ in his latter years.

He isn’t the only NBA big man to ‘not get it’. Two of the best – Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon – ended their careers with different teams, instead of the epic sendoffs they would have received from New York and Houston respectively. Ewing finished up with Seattle and The Dream with Toronto. Toronto!? Sad.

Dikembe Mutombo – he of the 7 foot 2 shot blocking finger-waving phenom, played on for six mediocre seasons, spilt between New York and Houston, before he finally heard the call. Six!

We’ve seen it all…

We’ve all seen players go on too long. For every Ali, Jack Nicklaus, Ian Healy, Tony Lockett (or have you forgotten the ‘comeback’?!) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar*, there are too few Rocky Marciano’s, Isiah Thomas’, Bjorn Borg’s, and yes, Shane Crawford’s (!) who got it right when hanging up the boots.

* Yes Kareem you get a mention – you played in ridiculous goggles until you were 42 and grumpier than my dad. Meanwhile your scoring average dipped into sub-freezing temperatures. Oh, and you refused me your autograph as the only fan in the MMM foyer during your ‘farewell tour for the fans’. So there’s that too…

Ok Kareem, you're forgiven for the skyhook!

Ok Kareem, you’re forgiven for the skyhook!

The point?

I’ve taken a long while to get here, but Ponting’s retirement has got me thinking about the activities I’m involved in that I need to consider giving up…

Clearly there’s nothing I’m world class at, (though I defy you to beat me in UNO!) but they may definitely be some elements of my life needing a big change – work, sport, online and even this blog.

What about you?

As we spoke about last week, there are a number of life’s lessons that we can learn in and around the sporting arena. I am so pleased that Ponting will go out and be remembered as the best batsman we’ve had since Bradman.

Stop sign - really!

Personally, I wouldn’t have given two hoots if he’d gone to England and played like a dog, then followed it up with a rubbish tour here. He’s earned the right to choose when to step away.  If that costs us a match or two, so be it. He’s earned that privilege.

Yet bigger picture, I want the Ponting name, and those that follow, to earn the nation’s and the sporting fraternity’s enduring respect.

Nothing can last forever.


About petek8

Pete Evans has just finished going 12 months without watching any sport. The journey stemmed from a sense that the balance was out-of-whack with my time and my priorities. Everything seemed to revolve around creating enough time and space to fit in the last game, games, recap shows or space to surf the net for the latest numbers and analysis. The cycle never ends - one season leads into another, seasons overlap if you follow various sports and the media's insatiable appetite for a new 'story' means that even the greatest of achievements aren't heralded for more than 3 days. So I stepped away from the machine for awhile and intentionally engaging with the journey by writing about it.

5 responses »

  1. NBA pay packets – you’d stay too!

  2. Rubbish. I’m in teaching; I’m loaded!!

  3. And highly valued by Govt’, the media and parents!

  4. >> Clearly there’s nothing I’m world class at…

    Lakers v Celtics? Surely the top two players in the world are based right here in Melbourne? 🙂

  5. You’re a long time retired. Some things are simply too much fun to quit. It’s only the fans who want athletes to go out on top. They want to play forever. As long as the coach isn’t blinded by history and picks them on merit, there’s no reason to retire. But if you’re officially crud, it’s better to retire than get sacked!


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