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Sachin’s the best player I played against: Ricky

- Punter names Bhajji among bowlers who caused him ‘grief’
Ricky Ponting is chaired by David Warner (left) and captain Michael Clarke, at the Waca, on Monday. (Reuters)

Calcutta: Ricky Ponting’s last Test innings lasted just 39 minutes and 23 balls, but through his illustrious career he has gifted cricket enthusiasts memories of a lifetime. The guard of honour from the Graeme Smith and Co. on Sunday was a reminder of the greatness of Ponting.

After Australia’s 309-run loss against the Proteas at Perth, Ponting spoke to the media and out came a plethora of memories. From Sachin Tendulkar to Harbhajan Singh, Australia’s most successful run-getter was candid in his views.

The following are excerpts His feelings on having played his last Test innings

That it’s over has sunk in. It’s been a pretty long, tough week I guess… I know I’ve been more nervous in this game than any other that I've played… That’s just for the reason how much it means for me to play for Australia and wanting to finish the right way. So it has been a hard week and we haven’t got the result we were aiming and I haven't got the result I was after. Looking back, it’s been a special week as well… Having my whole family here has been great, unbelievable support from them, and great support from the fans and from my teammates.

On why he felt it was time to call it a day

Excluding Brisbane and the start of Adelaide, when I got a pretty good ball, I think I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to perform knowing that I had to, or feeling within myself that I had to. Also, knowing where the series was at, it’s always been about big games and big series for me… And getting off the start I did with those two innings just had me under pressure again, and I haven’t been able to deal with it as well of late as I’d have liked to.

The guard of honour from the South Africans and the final ovation

I got my big ovation, but (Graeme) Smith and the South African team’s gesture, that sort of stuff will remain with me forever… I told him that on the field today. So that was special… I was pretty pumped up for the moment, I just felt there was one last big push from me, and the game and the day was set up for it, but it didn’t last long enough. Even out of today, just being at the crease for 20-odd balls, it’s a pretty special time, and anyone who’s retired has felt that as well.

On the supreme batsmen of his era

I felt Sachin was the best player I played against, and that’s coming from more of a captain’s point of view as well, knowing he had so much success against us in our conditions and their conditions. But the other way to look at it is, I probably lost more sleep on the eve of games against Lara, because I knew he could single-handedly win games for his team. The way I judge players has always been on their ability to win games, and win games by themselves. Lara could certainly do that and he did it probably more than what Sachin’s done for India. It’s hard to separate the class of player… You’ve got to put Kallis in that bracket as well. You put his wickets on top of what he’s done with the bat. He came out the other day to bat and I looked at the board and he was averaging 57 in Test cricket. That’s remarkable considering the amount he’s had to bowl and all that sort of stuff. I’ve been pretty blessed to play in the era I’ve played with so many great batsmen, and if my name gets mentioned among them, then that’s great.

Looking back, on the best bowlers that he faced

I think Curtly Ambrose and Wasim Akram were probably the two outstanding quicks that I faced, and for different reasons… Ambrose for his ability to just make you feel like you couldn’t score off him for long periods of time, never felt like he was going to bowl you a bad ball. Akram for the exact opposite, you could get a few runs off him, but you just knew there was an unplayable ball around the corner, be it with an old ball or with a new ball. Those two, and Harbhajan’s probably the other one, who caused me as much grief as anything. He got me out a lot of times, and caused me a lot of grief. Those guys, through their careers, can all put their hand up and say they had my measure.

On what he’ll miss

I’ll miss the mateship, I’ll miss the dressing room. That’s the stuff that’s irreplaceable in your life I guess.