For such a big player, Ricky Ponting never had a big ego. In 2008, when he came to play for the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the inaugural season of the IPL, he became a hit among the local boys. Initially, the young players, most of them had never played international cricket, were in awe of the Aussie master. But Ponting walked the extra mile to break the barriers. One day, after a net session, he took Laxmi Ratan Shukla aside. The Bengal player had tried to play a couple of pull shots but was not getting the pivot. Ponting had noticed that and then for the next half an hour he was at work as a wide-eyed Shukla just followed the instructions. To this day, Shukla says that it was his best cricketing moment as he learnt to play the pull shot from someone who has had a “copyright” over the stroke.
Ponting played only four matches for KKR before returning to lead Australia. But by the time he left, he became the most popular man in the camp. Shukla still gets a reply from his “hero” whenever he sends him a text message, asking for any cricketing help. By the time the IPL arrived, Ponting had already spent 13 years on the circuit. From a talented but brash young cricketer, he grew into his job to become one of the best ever.
Ponting’s early days were more about controversies. On the field, he always performed, but off it, he had a tendency to go a little too far while letting his hair down. He had issues with a bouncer at a Kolkata nightclub when Mark Taylor’s Australia came here in 1998. He also failed with the bat in that series as his team suffered an innings defeat. Questions were raised about his temperament and also his ability to make it big. Maybe it was a case of an overdose of attention as a young Ricky Ponting was struggling to come to terms with the pressure and fame. He hit the bottle. After a brawl in the famous Bourbon and Beefsteak bar in Sydney, Cricket Australia intervened.
Ponting was tipped to become the next big thing in Australian cricket when Rodney Marsh spotted him as a teenager and nurtured his talent at the Cricket Academy. Zimbabwe’s Murray Goodwin was his roomie at the Academy and even in those early days he predicted