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Ponting can be greatest batsman: Warne

By Adam Cooper 07/02/2006 07:02:10 PM Comments (0)

Legspinner Shane Warne has bowled to both Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, but believes Australian captain Ricky Ponting can supercede them both and become Test cricket's greatest batsman before retiring.

Ponting is currently ranked the No.1 batter in both forms of the game and on Monday night capped another outstanding personal year with his second Allan Border Medal win, having scored 1,596 Test runs and seven centuries in the past year.

At 31, time, form and ability are all on Ponting's side despite him trailing West Indian champion Lara, 36, and Indian maestro Tendulkar, 32, who are the game's two great contemporary batsmen.

Lara is Test cricket's leading run-scorer with 11,204 runs, Tendulkar is fourth on 10,386 and Ponting is 10th, on 8,253.

But Warne, a long-time opponent of both Lara and Tendulkar and a teammate of Ponting's for over a decade, believed his skipper had the potential to make many of the game's batting records, such as the most runs and centuries, his own.

"I think you've seen this year what he is capable of," Warne said.

"What is he, 31? So he'll play who knows how many more years.

"So he could break all the records in the batting if it's up to him, if he's still enjoying it and he's enjoying captaining the side and enjoying playing and batting like he is, there's no doubt he could break all the records, for sure."

Although Ponting's limited overs record is supreme, it is difficult to forecast him overtaking Tendulkar in the one-day game, as the Little Master's majestic achievements in the 50-over game - he has played the most matches, scored the most runs and notched the most hundreds - does not look like abating, as he posted century No.39, against Pakistan.

But Warne believed Ponting was tough to dislodge once he was set, and was in the sort of form few players ever reached.

"I don't think there's too many guys who have been in this sort of form," Warne said.

"I remember Matty Hayden a few years ago, Tendulkar in the mid-90s, Lara in the mid-90s, the form (Ponting's) been in has just been phenomenal.

"He's had a wonderful year. He's always hard to bowl to, he's quick on his feet and he's a wonderful player.

"He plays the quicks so well that they bring the spinners on and he whacks them.

"You've got to get him out early, if you don't get him out early then he's going to make you pay."

Although Ponting could look back on another excellent year, the awards left limited overs star Andrew Symonds smarting, as he missed winning back-to-back One-Day awards because he was ineligible since his drinking binge the night before a match during last year's Ashes tour.

Ponting revealed Symonds, who was fined and suspended for his indiscretion, had ruled himself ineligible for the award as part of the players' pledge to maintain good records.

He commended the Queenslander for making the self-imposed punishment.

"It hurts everybody in the side, to know that he actually would have won the award, and to make himself ineligible was a very good thing to do," he said.

"A lot of people probably don't think we take the Spirit of Cricket (code) too seriously, but that's a perfect example of how much the players do respect it."

Australia added Victorian paceman Mick Lewis to the one-day squad for the first of the Tri-Series finals against Sri Lanka, in Adelaide on Friday.

Lewis, who played two one-dayers in New Zealand in December, comes into the squad for Glenn McGrath, who has withdrawn from the finals to be with wife Jane, who is being treated for cancer.

Australian squad: Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist, Nathan Bracken, Stuart Clark, Michael Clarke, Brett Dorey, Brad Hogg, James Hopes, Michael Hussey, Simon Katich, Brett Lee, Mick Lewis, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds.

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