Melbourne: Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Tuesday heaped praise on Ricky Ponting for his decision to step down as Australian captain from both Test and one-dayers, describing him as a "great bloke and a fantastic cricketer".
Under immense pressure after losing his third Ashes series and Australia`s ouster from the World Cup, Ponting today called it a day, putting an end to his successful tenure as captain.
"To play that kind of role for Australia is an enormous privilege and I know from talking to Ricky today that he has felt that privilege," Gillard told reporters.
"He`s our greatest batsman after (Don) Bradman... I think all of us would wish him well in whatever he chooses to do for the balance of his life.
"He`s still a very young man but many, many accolades are going to flow in the direction of Ricky Ponting today and in the coming days and let me lend my voice to congratulate a great bloke and fantastic cricketer," she said of Ponting, who is not only Australia`s most successful Test captain but also its leading Test run-scorer.
Former players and teammates also praised Ponting`s decision with Australian Cricketers` Association President and former team-mate Michael Kasprowicz describing him as magnificent leader.
"Ricky has been a magnificent team leader who has excelled in all forms of the game in all kinds of conditions," Kasprowicz said.
"On countless occasions he has carved an innings of strength to truly lead from the front on the big stage and was an inspirational figure to play under."
Though he has given up his captaincy, Ponting still is available for selection as a batsmen and former England captain Michael Vaughan said there is still a lot of runs left in him.
"Respect to Ricky Ponting. Never easy giving up something that you love doing. Lots of runs still in him though. Bowlers beware," Vaughan wrote on his Twitter page.
The 36-year-old also received a pat on the back from Cricket Australia chairman Jack Clarke who praised Ponting for his "outstanding" leadership.
"Ricky Ponting has been an outstanding batsman, one of the best to wear the baggy green," Clarke said in a statement.
"His leadership as captain has been outstanding and I sometimes think his brilliance with the bat has overshadowed his fine work as captain.”
"Those close to the team know his true worth in guiding his players and setting a personal example of commensurate professionalism, particularly in recent years following the retirement of so many greats of the game."
Former Australian skipper Kim Hughes feels Ponting can do better justice to his cricket once after relinquishing his captaincy.
"I still feel that he possibly thinks he`s got another year or two good cricket left in him at either one-day or Test cricket and maybe without the burden of the captaincy that he can do justice to that," Hughes said.