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Ricky Ponting: The most successful cricketer of all time

S Rajesh
December 1, 2012
Ricky Ponting is one of only five batsmen to score four centuries in the fourth innings of Tests © Getty Images
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Quite simply, Ricky Ponting is the most successful cricketer to ever play the game: over a career spanning 559 international matches (going into his last Test), he was a part - and often the protagonist - of 377 victories. That the next best is only 301 (by Sachin Tendulkar) indicates, more than anything else, the golden era of Australian cricket that he was a part of, but he also shaped much of it with his batting and captaincy. Ponting remains the only player to have played in more than 100 Test wins (he has 108); among active cricketers, Jacques Kallis is next on 75. In ODIs, Australia won 262 of the 375 matches he played; next in line is again Tendulkar with 234. And then there were also the three World Cup wins that he was a part of, two of them as captain.

Through a large number of these wins, Ponting was Australia's mainstay in the batting line-up. In Australia, he is regarded as their best batsman since Don Bradman, and the numbers back up that claim quite emphatically. Only Tendulkar has more runs in Tests and ODIs, and till recently, he had the second-most centuries in both formats too, till Kallis went past him in Tests. Among Australians, Ponting's Test aggregate is easily the highest, though his average has fallen marginally below Greg Chappell's, thanks to his relatively poor recent form; in ODIs, Ponting scored almost 4000 runs more than the next-best Australian.

Perth may not be Australia's most historic ground, but in a way it'll be fitting that Ponting's Test journey will end where it all started 17 years ago: a rough lbw call stopped him four short of a debut century, against Sri Lanka, but since then not much has come in the way of his appetite for runs. Even when he took over as captain, it didn't diminish from Ponting the batsman: he averaged 51.51 in Tests and 42.91 in ODIs over a long captaincy stint.

Ponting's Test career started with 96 against Sri Lanka, and he then also passed 50 in his first Test against West Indies (88 in Brisbane), England (127 at Headingley), New Zealand (73 not out in Brisbane), South Africa (105 in Melbourne) and Pakistan (76 not out in Peshawar). (He also scored 54 in the only Test against ICC World XI in Sydney, making it seven 50-plus scores in his first Test against an opposition.) Despite those strong starts, though, Ponting's Test form was patchy through his first three years.

From 1999 to 2006, though, he was on top of his game as a Test batsman. During this period, he scored more than 8000 runs at a 65-plus average, with 31 centuries in 87 Tests. No other batsman scored 7500 Test runs. From 2007 onwards he wasn't quite as prolific, but he still managed to average almost 41, though his conversion rate of fifties into hundreds dropped drastically.

Ricky Ponting's Test career
Period Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Till Dec 1998 22 1209 36.63 2/ 7
Jan 1999 to Dec 2006 87 8114 65.43 31/ 29
Jan 2007 onwards 58 4043 40.83 8/ 26
Career 167 13,366 52.21 41/ 62

The golden years
During that eight-year period between 1999 and 2006, Ponting averaged 50 or more against all opposition except Sri Lanka, against whom he averaged 47.09 in seven Tests. He was especially unstoppable at home, averaging 73.76 from 47 Tests. He wasn't quite as prolific overseas, but still averaged an outstanding 56.55 in 40 matches. The only blot during that period - as indeed over his entire career - was his record in India: in seven Test innings there, he scored 40 runs at 5.71; over his entire career, he averaged 26.48 in Tests in India, with one century in 25 innings. Harbhajan Singh was his tormentor on most of those occasions, getting him out ten times, the most occasions any bowler dismissed him. He averaged more than 40 in all other countries in which he played more than one Test.

Highest Test averages between Jan 1999 and Dec 2006 (Qual: 3000 runs)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Ricky Ponting 87 8114 65.43 31/ 29
Jacques Kallis 81 7053 62.41 22/ 35
Rahul Dravid 82 7265 59.54 21/ 31
Mohammad Yousuf 66 5954 58.37 22/ 22
Inzamam-ul-Haq 65 5455 56.23 19/ 24
Matthew Hayden 81 7422 55.80 26/ 27
Sachin Tendulkar 71 5837 55.06 18/ 23
Brian Lara 74 7212 54.63 24/ 23
Steve Waugh 58 3818 52.30 15/ 11
Gary Kirsten 53 4197 51.18 14/ 17

One of the best at No. 3
Through most of the 17 years Ponting played international cricket, he owned the No. 3 spot. In all international cricket, he scored 22,869 runs from that position, which is easily the highest; the second-best is Sangakkara's 16,324. Ponting's 61 international hundreds at that position is 25 more than the next-best.

Breaking up those numbers format-wise, Ponting missed out on 10,000 Test runs at No. 3 by only 96, and though he currently has the most Test hundreds, Sangakkara is only three behind and will probably overhaul that mark pretty soon.

In ODIs, Ponting is easily the most prolific No. 3 batsman with 12,662 runs, almost 5000 more than the next-best (Kallis' 7759). His 29 ODI hundreds at No. 3 is more than twice that of any other batsman at that position (Kallis has 13).

Highest run-getters in Tests at No. 3
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Rahul Dravid 219 10,524 52.88 28/ 50
Ricky Ponting 196 9904 56.27 32/ 43
Kumar Sangakkara 169 9222 59.11 29/ 37
Don Bradman 56 5078 103.63 20/ 10
Hashim Amla 95 4734 55.04 16/ 22
Richie Richardson 107 4711 47.11 14/ 21
Rohan Kanhai 90 4689 52.68 13/ 20
David Boon 111 4412 45.48 13/ 20

Most runs scored at No. 3 in ODIs
Batsman Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Ricky Ponting 330 12,662 42.48 80.73 29/ 74
Jacques Kallis 196 7759 46.74 73.83 13/ 57
Kumar Sangakkara 176 6517 39.98 76.16 7/ 47
Dean Jones 131 5100 43.58 72.07 7/ 39
Brian Lara 106 4447 45.84 85.98 12/ 26

Almost 21% of the Tests that Ponting played were against England, and while he managed eight centuries in those matches, his overall average against them was eight runs lower than his career average. Some of his best runs, though, were scored against England's bowlers, perhaps none better than his effort at Old Trafford in 2005, when he kept a high-quality England attack at bay in scoring a match-saving 156.

Highest Australian run-scorers in the Ashes
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Don Bradman 37 5028 89.78 19/ 12
Allan Border 47 3548 56.31 8/ 21
Steve Waugh 46 3200 58.18 10/ 14
Clem Hill 41 2660 35.46 4/ 16
Greg Chappell 35 2619 45.94 9/ 12
Mark Taylor 33 2496 42.30 6/ 15
Ricky Ponting 35 2476 44.21 8/ 9
Neil Harvey 37 2416 38.34 6/ 12

Finishing with a flourish
In fact, Ponting brought out his best in the last innings of a Test more than once. In Fatullah in 2006, Ponting's unbeaten 118 saved Australia from the embarrassment of a Test defeat against Bangladesh, as they turned around a huge first-innings deficit and chased a fourth-innings target of 307. A couple of months earlier, he had celebrated his 100th Test with centuries in each innings, including 143 not out in a successful fourth-innings run-chase of 288. (That makes him the only batsman to score centuries in each innings of his 100th Test.) During that period, Ponting had scored three fourth-innings centuries in seven innings.

Overall, Ponting is one of five batsmen to score four centuries in the fourth innings of Tests; no batsman has scored more. His overall fourth-innings stats are fantastic too: 1454 runs at 51.92. Only four batsmen have scored more fourth-innings runs than he has.

As well as finishing matches, Ponting was outstanding at setting up games with dominant opening-day performances: in the first innings, he scored 5403 runs at 61.39, with 21 hundreds. No batsman has more first-innings centuries.

Leading by example
As mentioned earlier, Ponting won more international matches than any other player, and in a majority of those he was captain. Of the 377 wins he was a part of, he led the team in 220 of those games. The next-best is Graeme Smith's 154. Smith might catch up with Ponting's 48 wins in Tests (he is only four short), but it's unlikely any captain will catch up with Ponting's 165 ODI wins in a hurry.

With a 30-Test cut-off among Test captains, only Steve Waugh has a higher win percentage (wins as a percentage of Tests captained); in ODIs, with a 60-match cut-off, Ponting is second only to Clive Lloyd.

Captains with highest win % in Tests (Qual: 30 Tests)
Captain Tests Won Lost Win % W/L ratio
Steve Waugh 57 41 9 71.93 4.56
Ricky Ponting 77 48 16 62.34 3.00
Mike Brearley 31 18 4 58.06 4.50
Viv Richards 50 27 8 54.00 3.38
Mark Taylor 50 26 13 52.00 2.00
Captains with highest win % in ODIs (Qual: 60 matches)
Captain Matches Won Lost Win % W/L ratio
Clive Lloyd 84 64 18 76.19 3.56
Ricky Ponting 230 165 51 71.74 3.24
Hansie Cronje 138 99 35 71.74 2.83
Viv Richards 105 67 36 63.81 1.86
Steve Waugh 106 67 35 63.21 1.91

Through all the rigours of captaincy, Ponting continued to excel at his primary suit - scoring runs. Only Smith and Allan Border have scored more Test runs as captains, while Ponting is second to none in terms of ODI runs as captain.

World Cup exploits
And after all this there was the small matter of his World Cup stats. In keeping with his winning stats, he also won more World Cup matches than any other player - 38, four more than Glenn McGrath. He's also one of only two players - Glenn McGrath being the other - to play four World Cup finals.

He excelled as a batsman too in these tournaments - only Tendulkar has scored more World Cup runs. Tendulkar's overall World Cup aggregate is 535 more than Ponting's, but the gap narrows to 92 when runs scored against the Test-playing teams are considered. In the biggest match of them all - the World Cup final - he has produced his best, scoring an unbeaten 140 against India 2003, the second-highest score in a final.

Most runs scored in World Cups v non-Associate teams
Batsman Matches Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Sachin Tendulkar 36 1597 46.97 85.03 3/ 12
Ricky Ponting 36 1505 50.16 79.92 4/ 6
Brian Lara 29 1109 42.65 83.88 2/ 6
Javed Miandad 30 1083 43.32 68.02 1/ 8
Sanath Jayasuriya 32 1024 35.31 89.43 3/ 6
Viv Richards 23 1013 63.31 85.05 3/ 5

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

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