Several months ago, I wrote a post entitled "The unbearable greatness of Ponting."
With his magnificent performance in the first Ashes Test this week, I find myself reflecting on that opinion once more. And I've come to the conclusion that I stand by it. History simply will not be able to ignore the fact that in 14 innings in India, Ponting has scored 172 runs at an average of 12.28.
I assure you that a batsman with a similar record to Ponting - brilliant success everywhere, and an average of 12 from 14 innings in Australia, would always be labelled as one notch below greatness. I suppose it's a truism of the sport that success against spin is just not considered relevant.
Before I get slammed again, let me state that Ricky Ponting is nothing short of awesome as a batsman, and the blot on his record is highly unfortunate. It is sad that he won't tour India again until 2010. But none of that changes the facts.
Let's take another approach. The Big Four are unquestionably Lara, Tendulkar, Ponting and Dravid. Let's see which countries their averages dip below the 50-mark, which is typically the greatness threshold.
Tendulkar: averages just 40 in NZ, Pak, RSA and Zim, with 47 in the West Indies. That's Michael Atherton greatness, not Bradmanesque. No major weak spot, but far too many good-but-not-great ones.
Lara: averages just 33 in India, 36 in NZ, 42 in Aus and 48 in England. A bigger spread than Tendulkar, but then he's also won a lot more off his own blade.
Ponting: averages a whopping 12 in India, and 40 in England (we'll discount his single innings 31 in Zimbabwe). Of the four, he's the only one with a major blot on his record.
Dravid: his weak spot is an average of 42 in South Africa, and 47 in Sri Lanka.
Two things stand out here.
Firstly, while we've all been talking about Tendulkar and Lara, it's Ponting and Dravid who have been batting out there in the middle.
Secondly, while Ponting obviously has a better conversion rate on his 50s (turning them into 100s), and is the more destructive batsman, it's not remotely clear that Rahul Dravid should be left out of any discussion of who is the leading batsman on the planet currently.
And that's ignoring the fact that Ponting usually comes into bat after Hayden and Langer have started pulverising the opposition, versus Dravid coming into bat after Opener-Of-The-Week has been dismissed in the first over.
In truth, I'd be hard pushed to say either is greater than the other, even though on a personal level I'd take Dravid any day of the week. What I can unequivocally state however, is that a man who averages 12 after 14 innings in one country cannot be equated with Bradman. That's just nonsense.