Ricky Ponting's previous five Test scores resembled binary code more than the output of an Australian cricketer: 11, 0, 0, 6 and 0.

It was 2001 and Harbhajan Singh had just finished humiliating the then 26-year-old and his fellow batsmen on a tour of India the hosts won 2-1.

Off-spinner Singh dismissed Ponting all five times that series and finished with 32 scalps. Coming in at no. 6 on turning pitches, the future Aussie skipper's notoriously hard hands did him no favours in the face of a tweaker who was able to get the ball to spit off the surface at will.

Despite his abysmal returns, the right-hander kept his place for the Ashes tour several months later. Damien Martyn was brought along as the spare batsman and found himself in the side for the first Test at Edgbaston when Justin Langer's poor form in the warm-up matches combined with a disappointing run in India saw him axed.

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A new first drop was needed and captain Steve Waugh decided the time was right to promote Ponting - for so long anointed as Australia's next great batting prodigy - up the order. He moved to no. 3 and Martyn slotted in at no. 6.

The initial signs weren't great. From the slow, low pitches of Kolkata and Chennai to the green, seaming tracks of Lord's and Trent Bridge, the Tasmanian's fortunes didn't improve. He scored just 60 runs in five innings across the first three Tests.

But in the fourth match at Headingley - the only game the Aussies lost that series - Ponting made his mark. He scored a sublime 144 off just 154 balls in the first innings and 72 in the second. Australia had found its long-term no. 3.

He'd already played 42 Tests before his elevation, but didn't really feel satisfied with his role in the Australian set-up. Batting at first wicket down, Ponting knew he could make a difference.

"I never felt I was an instrumental, solid part of the team until I got the opportunity to bat at no. 3," Ponting told Mark Howard in the latest episode of the broadcaster's podcast series The Howie Games. "When I made the move up there, to me that was, 'Right, now you've got your chance up the order'.

"A lot of people talk about the time I met (my wife) Rianna and certain things happened in my life where things really started to change, but if someone asks me I talk about getting the opportunity to bat at no. 3 in the Test team because it was the extra responsibility that came with that.

"I wanted that. I wanted to be the best player in the team, I wanted to be the best player in the world and I didn't think I could do that from no. 6. So when I got that opportunity, that was when things started to change."

"Punter" went on to occupy the most important position in the batting line-up - often reserved for the team's best player - for more than a decade before sliding down to no. 4 late in his career after he'd given up the captaincy.

The man many regard as Australia's best batsman since Don Bradman ended up scoring 13,378 runs from 168 Tests at an average of 51.85 - his best efforts coming after the fall of the first wicket.

AN UNEXPECTED CAREER HIGHLIGHT

In a first-class career that spanned two decades, Ponting has no shortage of clips in the highlights reel. He won three World Cups - two of them as captain - scored twin hundreds in his 100th Test and led Australia to a 5-0 Ashes whitewash on home soil, to name just a few.

But for those who remember people constantly questioning Ponting's worth as a batsman in the twilight of his career, you'll remember the theme of the answers he usually gave.

He wasn't hanging around to boost his stats or beat records, rather, he kept playing for Australia because he believed he had plenty to teach the young guys gently wading into the often treacherous waters of international cricket for the first time.

When talking about moments he'll cherish most from his time as an Australian cricketer, it would be easy to choose from a myriad of personal achievements. But perhaps it shouldn't come as a huge surprise Ponting holds a team effort up as his greatest glory.

It was 2009 and South Africa had just upset Australia, beating Ponting's men 2-1 Down Under. The Aussies then travelled to Africa for a return series with a team of new faces - players like Phil Hughes, Ben Hilfenhaus, Andrew McDonald and Marcus North all made their debuts on the tour.

Having lost to the Proteas at home, Australia wasn't expected to reverse the result in enemy territory. But against the odds, the men in baggy greens won the first two matches to claim the series 2-1.

"We beat them (in the second Test in Durban) so we were 2-0 up, series over. I was walking off the field and I deliberately walked 30 to 40m ahead of the rest of the group and I stood on the boundary line," Ponting said.

"I wanted to look back because I wanted to see what it meant to guys like Hughes and (Peter) Siddle and all these boys to win their first series against the no. 1 team in the world away from home.

"I stood there and looked back and all these young blokes had their arms around each other and were holding stumps up ... to them it was something extra special and when I saw that unfold, that was the moment I probably take away as being the most special moment of my captaincy time for Australia."

WE JUST BAWLED OUR EYES OUT

For all his cricketing exploits, Ricky Ponting's best work has undoubtedly come off the field.

With wife Rianna, the pair started the Ponting Foundation, which provides a range of services to help young Australians and their families beat cancer.

Ponting was always giving of his time, but hadn't been involved in much of a formal capacity when it came to charity work until he went to a luncheon with former Wallaby Phil Kearns, who was on the board of the Children's Cancer Institute of Australia. Kearns organised for the former Aussie skipper and Rianna to visit the Royal Children's Hospital in Sydney. It was a visit that changed their lives.

"We walked into the hospital and the first thing we saw was a six-month-old baby boy that had just been diagnosed with leukaemia in his father's arms, and mum and dad had moved in from the country and had to give up their jobs. It was pretty confronting," said Ponting.

"We got to the chemotherapy ward where there was a 13-year-old boy who'd just gone through his daily dose of chemo and was just laying back on his bed, and he's attached to all these machines and tubes are coming out of him.

"He must have been a cricket fan ... I got up close to the glass, he saw me by the window and he sat up in bed and his face lit up. Because he couldn't come out and I couldn't go in he wanted to get as close to the window as he could. He sat up in bed and put his feet on the ground and basically, as soon as his feet hit the ground, he just vomited all over the place because of the pain he was going through. He threw up everywhere.

"Rianna and I walked out the front together, and we'd kept it together inside, but once we got out the front both of us just started bawling our eyes out at what we'd just seen.

"That was the line in the sand. It was, 'Right, now we've got to help these people'."

Ponting's charity work is now well known, but his own family troubles aren't. Son Fletcher was born in 2014, but within his first six months in the world, he had already undergone more than any child should have to endure.

Twice he spent three-week stints in intensive care as Ponting, his wife and doctors struggled to come to grips with what was happening.

"Fletch, when he was six weeks old ... he had a meningitis type infection that knocked him around big time. He'd basically lost everything, he was almost unconscious, we couldn't stir him, we couldn't wake him, he was basically unresponsive to everything," Ponting said. "We had three weeks in intensive care with him trying to get to the bottom of it.

"You're not really sure what's going to happen but he got through the first one then when he got to six months of age he had another pretty serious infection that we didn't know much about and the doctors didn't know much about. That was the scariest one because he was shut down - he was sedated for about four or five days at one stage where he couldn't open his eyes."

It's here silence takes over for several seconds. You can't hear any sobs, but it's clear the cricket legend becomes emotional - a point Howard makes when he says: "I can obviously see the effect it has on you mate, and now you've got me upset."

"I've never done that before," Ponting adds when he regains his composure. "I've spoken about him a lot of times but that's never happened before."

He mentions he just got Fletcher his first cricket set for Christmas, so who knows, we might yet see another Australian cricketer with the surname Ponting in the years to come.