Clarke leads Ponting tributes
Reaction to the news that former Australia captain Ricky Ponting is to retire from Test cricket.
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A tearful Michael Clarke led the tributes to Ricky Ponting after his predecessor as Australia captain announced his retirement on Thursday.
Ponting will end a celebrated 17-year international career following this week's Test series decider against South Africa in Perth.
The prolific right-hander, less than a month shy of his 38th birthday, admitted his time was up following a barren return of just 20 runs in the opening two Tests of the series.
Ponting's decision has set an emotional stage for the WACA Ground contest - which will decide who is the number one ranked Test side - although Clarke admitted he had not expected the match would hold such extra significance.
"I didn't have a feeling it was coming," said Clarke.
"Ricky spoke to me after [the second Test against South Africa in] Adelaide and obviously made his decision over the last few days.
"The boys are obviously hurting right now. He's been an amazing player for a long time."
Asked how it might affect the team ahead of the Perth Test, Clarke added: "It will only give us more inspiration."
Ponting will join level with Steve Waugh's Australian record of 168 Test caps in Perth before stepping out of the game with more than 27,000 international runs.
The Tasmanian's list of records runs deep - he is the second-leading Test runscorer, has captained a record 48 wins in the longest version while he won two World Cups without losing a game as skipper.
It was no surprise then that the plaudits quickly flowed for one of the most fiercely competitive and successful players of his generation.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith, who will attempt to crash Ponting's farewell party, revealed his respect for his long-time rival.
"Initially it was a bit of a shock...I've played a lot against Ricky and he's the most competitive man I've ever played against," he said.
"I think the way he played the game, the intensity with which he played the game, is a credit to him. He's always represented Australia with a lot of dignity and a lot of skill"
Former England captain Michael Atherton believes Ponting's contribution should not be measured in numbers alone.
"He's right up there (with the best ever) - 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."
Players from around the world quickly took to Twitter to communicate their respect for Ponting, including former team-mates such as legendary bowlers Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.
Warne wrote: "Congrats to Ricky Ponting on an amazing career, well done Punter...Enjoy your last match in Perth buddy, was a pleasure playing with you!!!"
McGrath added: "Well done Punter on an incredible career. It would be great to see you finish with a ton. It was an honour to play alongside of you #legend."
England batsman Kevin Pietersen, who made his Test debut as Ponting lost the Ashes for the first time in 2005, voiced his admiration.
"Ricky Ponting RETIRES.... ONE OF THE GREATS!" he wrote. "I always got excited playing AUS, so I could watch him bat up close. Well done Punter!"
Michael Vaughan, the England captain in the 2005 Ashes, wrote on Twitter: "The best batsman I had the privilege to play against ... Ricky Ponting... #Punter. Australian cricket will not be the same without him."
Ponting's only Ashes success as skipper came in the 5-0 whitewash six years ago over an England team led by Andrew Flintoff.
While Ponting is bringing down the curtain on his glorious career, Flintoff was preparing to begin a new one in the boxing ring, and at a promotion for his first fight told Sky Sports News: "He's amazing, he's one of the best batsmen ever to play the game.
"He's finally called it a day - fantastic career, tough competitor, someone I loved playing against.
"He'll be missed in Australian cricket but also world cricket - top man."