MELBOURNE, (Reuters) – Ricky Ponting’s international future could be in doubt if he fails to make runs, regardless of the former captain’s standing in the game, Australia coach Mickey Arthur has said.
Australia play the first of a four-test series against India in Melbourne on Dec. 26 and the debate over the out-of-form batsman’s place has polarised the nation. Many former players and pundits have demanded the 37-year-old step down or be pensioned off, while others have cited Ponting’s imperious record as reason enough to allow him to decide the manner of his own exit.
South African Arthur said Ponting, the game’s most successful captain and third most prolific run scorer in tests, could not rest on his reputation or his value as a mentor to Australia’s next generation.
“I don’t think anyone’s guaranteed a start,” Arthur told reporters at the Melbourne Cricket Ground yesterday when asked if Ponting would be retained for the Boxing Day test.
“Ricky Ponting is really vital to where we want to take this team. We are really hoping that he finds his form and hopefully that form is just around the corner.
“I’ve backed Ricky Ponting in, like I’ve backed Mike Hussey in for a period of time because I think they’re crucial to the development of the side.
“For our young batters, to bat with guys like that is fantastic, but, again, they need to keep giving us ammunition, they need to keep giving us performances.
“Nobody’s guaranteed a start, nobody’s got a privilege to play in the Australian cricket team. They’ve got to be producing the goods and giving us ammunition to play.”
Arthur, a member of Australia’s five-man selection panel along with captain Michael Clarke, will meet with the other selectors to decide Ponting’s immediate fate.
Ponting has scored two half-centuries in his past four innings but appeared badly out of touch as he scored a total of 21 runs in the second test loss against New Zealand in Hobart earlier this month.
The Tasmanian is nonetheless expected to be retained for the first India test given the simultaneous failures of most of his batting colleagues and injury clouds hanging over others.
Australia launched a three-day batting boot camp in Melbourne yesterday for Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, all rounders Shane Watson and Dan Christian, and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, hoping to avoid another stunning collapse against India that cost certain victory in Hobart and brought defeat in Cape Town against South Africa last month.
Arthur said all batsmen had been given frank notes about where they had been deficient.
“I think we just want to see Ricky accessing the ball a little bit and part of this preparation the next couple of days is just to free him up,” he added.
Watson, who was ruled out of the two-test New Zealand series, is expected to be fit to slot back into the batting lineup for the Boxing Day test but may not bowl as he recovers from a hamstring injury.
Batsman Shaun Marsh would struggle to play a part after being out of competitive cricket for six weeks with a back injury, Arthur said, potentially opening the door for the untried Ed Cowan in place of opener Phil Hughes, who is expected to be dropped.
Australia also appear set to retain the youth-led attack that bowled admirably in the test series against New Zealand, with 32-year-old paceman Ryan Harris no certainty to come into consideration.
Harris, who suffered a hip injury during the South Africa tour, will return to competitive cricket with a domestic Twenty20 fixture later yesterday.
“He’s got to prove to us that he would be able to play on Boxing Day and give us 40 overs over a test match which is quite a big ask at the moment,” he said.