Evergreen Tendulkar inspires Ponting

Australia captain Ricky Ponting praised India great Sachin Tendulkar ahead of their World Cup quarterfinal clash, but joked they both might need wheelchairs to play in the 2015 edition.

Updated: March 23, 2011 16:30 IST
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It was in Dunedin, of all places, that Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar first met in an international match. In the far south of New Zealand, two future legends lined up in an ODI; Ponting a 20-year-old who was in his third outing for his country, Tendulkar at 21 already a veteran of India's team, with 11 international centuries to his name. Great things were predicted for both men.

Sixteen years and 76 meetings later, Tendulkar and Ponting are the two leading run scorers in international cricket history, and they'll walk out on to the Motera ground in Ahmedabad, each hoping to end the other's World Cup career. There's every chance they will play again, when India tour Australia for a Test series later this year, but there's also the possibility this will be their final showdown. And their situations could hardly be more different.

Tendulkar turns 38 next month and is in the form of his career. He is the reigning ICC Cricketer of the Year, last year rewrote the record-books by making 200 in a one-day international, and is the No.1-ranked batsman in the ICC's Test rankings and No. 10 in the ODI section. Ponting, 36, is no longer in the top 20 of either list. He is fighting for his cricketing future, but has taken inspiration from the way Tendulkar has rejuvenated his career after a lean patch in 2005 and 2006.

"Sachin has had an amazing couple of years," Ponting said in the lead-up to Thursday's quarter-final. "His last 15 months now have been unbelievable. It's absolutely inspirational for everyone, it doesn't matter if you're my age or 25. If you go through a form slump, if you stick to the things that have worked for you through your career, then eventually things will turn around. That's what I've got to keep believing and keep working on."

Not since Valentine's Day 2010 has Ponting made an international century; in the same period, Tendulkar has scored eight, including two in this World Cup alone. But Ponting knows that a single innings, perhaps even the feeling that comes from nailing a single shot, can turn a man's form on its head, and as he prepared for the knockout game he was keen to watch some highlights of his brilliant 140 in the World Cup final of 2003.

"I think I might watch the video of that over a few times today, remind myself of all the good things," Ponting said on Wednesday. "That's what a lot of our players do, a lot of our players look at themselves and watch other times that they've played well, especially if you're struggling with the bat or the ball. It's good to look back and make sure things are in order. It certainly doesn't hurt to do that every now and then. For me, knowing that I've been able to perform well like that in big games in the past is something to reflect back on."

Australia's problem is that even if Ponting fires, they must still nullify the Tendulkar threat. Centuries against England and South Africa so far in this tournament have shown that Tendulkar is a big-game player as well, not that anyone needed reminding. Ponting joked that the way Tendulkar was going at the moment, he could even have another World Cup left in him.

"We'll both probably be in wheelchairs by then," he said. "He'll be about 42 and I'll be 40, so it'll be interesting to see us running between the wickets in that next World Cup."

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