Ricky Ponting's Test retirement shows he's still calling the shots, says Mike Atherton
Ricky Ponting was always going to quit Test cricket when the time was right for him, says Mike Atherton.
Last Updated: 29/11/12 10:36am
Ponting, 37, has decided that this week's Sky Live third and final Test against South Africa in Perth - will be the 168th and last Test of his Australia career.
The former captain, who has scored just 20 runs in three innings in the series so far, admitted: "I continued to play as long as I felt I could contribute to wins but over the last couple of weeks I felt my level of performance has not been good enough to do that."
Atherton says the comment is proof enough that Ponting is certain this is the right time to call it a day.
"I'm not that surprised he's decided to retire," he told Sky Sports News. "The signs have been there for a while that his batting had slipped below his famously high standards.
"When he got two fairly cheap dismissals in Adelaide he must have thought, or wondered to himself, how long he would carry on.
"But it's a difficult decision for every ageing sportsman to make. India are going through the Sachin Tendulkar question - when do you decide that a run of scores is not just simply a run of bad form but something more fundamental than that?
"Obviously Ponting decided that the time is right now."
Ponting is the second highest run-scorer in Test history with 13,366 runs and 41 hundreds to his name, not to mention the most successful captain of all time with 48 Test wins.
Atherton believes that such a record means the Australian must rank as one of the very best cricketers in history, although the former England skipper stressed that Ponting's contribution to the game should not be explained simply by numbers.
"He's right up there [with the best ever players] - averaging more than 50, the second-most Test runs and more than 40 hundreds. But I don't think of him so much in a statistical way.
"He was just a great competitor for Australia. His game's never been just about an accumulation of statistics. His prime motivation has always been to help Australia win Test matches.
"He's an ultra-competitive, hard-nosed competitor on the field but a nice man off it: a peerless competitor."
You can watch Ponting's farewell Test from Friday when the third and final Test between Australia and South Africa begins on Sky Sports 2 HD from 2.30am.