Australia's RICKY PONTING announced his retirement from int'l cricket on Thursday, telling a "stunned" news conference that "he would be calling time on his glittering 17-year career after this week's third test against South Africa," according to Nick Mulvenney of REUTERS. The former Australia captain "has scored 13,366 runs in 167 tests -- the second highest haul in the long history of the game -- and stands behind only the great DON BRADMAN in the ranks of Australian batsmen." Ponting, who turns 38 next month, said, "A few hours ago I let the boys know of my decision to make this test my last. It's a decision I thought long and hard about. It was based on my output and my results in this series so far. It hasn't been what I expect of myself and certainly not the level required of a batsman in the Australia team." He stressed the decision "had not been prompted by the selectors," and said that "it was not hard to miss out on one final Ashes contest next year because he realised he was not good enough to get there." Ever the arch-competitor, Ponting said that "the time to look back over his career would come after the Perth match, which starts on Friday and where he will equal STEVE WAUGH's Australian record of 168 tests." Ponting said, "As I said to the boys this morning, I'm hungrier than ever, and I want this win probably more than any other game I've played. If we get back to the top of the tree, to the top of the world, there's no better time for me to bow out" (REUTERS, 11/29).
LAST HURRAH: In Sydney, Chris Barrett reported the third test match against South Africa will be "the last hurrah for Australia's greatest batsman since Bradman." Ponting said, "I know I've given cricket my all. It's been my life for 20 years. There is not much more that I can give.'' Ponting told Australian captain MICHAEL CLARKE and coach MICKEY ARTHUR "privately that he did not want to hang around simply to pass Waugh's mark, or to be afforded a testimonial in his native Tasmania" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 11/30). Also in Sydney, Peter Lalor reported Ponting and his teammates "wept at the team hotel as he told them the news, but the former Australian captain was dry-eyed and as uncompromising as ever as he announced" his retirement. Leading into this test there was talk of long discussions over Ponting's future, "but the all-time great calmed the situation by making the call himself." Ponting said, "I tried to say a lot but I didn't get much out. They'd never seen me emotional before, but I was this morning." Clarke, "clearly upset, replaced Ponting in front of the cameras and attempted to talk about the coming test." When "asked about what it would be like to lose the player who had captained him in his first test, the new skipper lost control." Clarke said, "He's been an amazing player for a long time ... and that'll do me for today" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 11/30).
"ONE OF THE BEST": In Sydney, Gideon Haigh reported "the only glimpse of Ponting's innermost feelings was a glad one, at the end of the press conference, when he leaned down, smiled broadly and spread his arms for his older daughter, who had been watching the ceremony quietly by her mother's side" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 11/30). Also in Sydney, Daniel Lane reported Ponting's former teammates gathered to hail him. Waugh "believed Ponting thrived on adversity, MARK WAUGH described him as one of the best he had played alongside," GLENN MCGRATH "paid tribute to a rare determination," JUSTIN LANGER said "he would be forever mentioned alongside Bradman and GREG CHAPPELL" while BRETT LEE likened him to a ''prize-fighter." Lee said, "Coming from that tough, working-class area of his in Tasmania he has that street-fighter mentality, he's a tough character who we saw battle through injury" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 11/30).