Sunday, December 2, 2012

Farewell Richard Ponting

The forthcoming retirement of the great Richard Ponting makes one remember the departures of the legends of my era, men like Ronald Oxenham, Albert Ernst Victor Hartkopf, Pud Thurlow, Affie Harwood Jarvis and his bitter enemy, Black Jack Blackham the Prince of Wicketkeepers. All great men and great servants to the game and I will be thinking of all of them as I watch Richard take guard for the final time.

Of those legends of days gone by, Blackham was, in many respects the most like Ponting. A magnificent fielder and a captain of a surprisingly nervous disposition, he led Australia to many crushing defeats against the old enemy, giving Ponting the inspiration to do the same many years later. He was also one of the last great cricketers to sport a thick bushranger beard throughout his career, a legacy from his early work as a bank clerk, where beardedness was seen as a private reassurance to customers in those straightened financial times. I had hoped Ponting was going to revive this lost art of grooming when he debuted in Perth with a carefully cultivated goatee beard, a promising start indeed, but over the years the bristles faded from view. A tragedy and probably the only disappointing aspect of Ponting’s legacy.

Another of my favourite cricketers of the days of yore is, of course, Ted a'Beckett. a’Beckett, like me was both a celebrated all-round sportsman and a man of the law. Ted certainly had my measure inside the pickets (although I troubled him more than a few times with my delicately flighted googlies), but on the boards of the district court I towelled him up so often he once told me he’d rather be facing that moustachioed demon Fred Spofforth than copping another Whitelocke broadside before a disapproving judiciary. That was all part of the game back then, soften them up with ad hominem verbal short balls then york them with some obscure and persuasive inswinging Canadian jurisprudence. Great memories!!

But memories, like those cricketing legends past, have faded into the pages of Wisden and soon will the deeds of the great R.T. Ponting. Farewell Richard, to me you will always be that incredible wunderkind, blessed with footwork and a hunger I have not seen in a Tasmanian since Alexander Pearce.

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