Interview: Ashes chapter hard to close for Ponting

Fairly or unfairly, Ricky Ponting's roaring success as a batsman and test captain has been tempered by his record against England.


MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Ricky Ponting knew his time was up when he bowed out of international cricket a year ago, but the competitive fires still rage for the former Australia captain when he imagines facing England one more time on home soil.

England's arrival in Perth on Friday signals the start of the cricket summer Down Under, with a four-week phoney war of tour matches, training and media hype before the second installment of back-to-back Ashes series gets underway with the first test in Brisbane.

In seasons past, Ponting would be plotting the arch-enemy's downfall at this time, refining his craft in the nets and champing at the bit for the day to arrive when he could stride to the crease to steady an innings with a defiant century.

Instead, the 38-year-old has spent his recent days looking back rather than forward, reminiscing over the highs and lows of a long and storied career on a book tour to promote his autobiography "At The Close Of Play".

Fairly or unfairly, Ponting's roaring success as a batsman and test captain has been tempered by his record against England, and the harrowing 3-1 series defeat on home soil two years ago left him the only Australian skipper to lose three Ashes series in over 100 years.

Little wonder the prospect of watching from the sidelines still tugs at the heartstrings as Australia prepares its bid to wrest the Ashes back after losing the first series 3-0 away.

"It does, a certain part of me says, 'yeah, I would love to be out there competing,'" Ponting told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

"And when these big test matches and Ashes series come round, I'd love to be out there because that was always the pinnacle for me.

"They're the moments that we all play for. When I was a young boy growing up all I wanted to do was play cricket for Australia and then obviously on the back of that was to be involved in an Ashes series.

"That was the reason I played the game was to be involved in those series but at the end of the day my time had gone.

"I couldn't play the way I used to be able to play and when that realisation hits it's pretty easy to sort of walk away.

"The exciting thing for me now is what I have post-cricket and that's obviously a beautiful family a lot to look forward to. To have a bit of time at home the last six weeks has been fantastic."

CALLOW TEAM

Ponting has written candidly of his retirement in the book, his clumsy dismissals in the final home series against South Africa and the relief of telling his family that he knew it was time to hang up his bat.

Australia had wanted the hard-bitten Tasmanian to hold on until the Ashes, reasoning that his vast experience and value as a mentor would offset a declining output of runs.

Ponting's retirement and the exit of fellow veteran batsman Mike Hussey months later left captain Michael Clarke to lead a callow team into one of its toughest campaigns in recent years.

With Clarke the only bulwark in a brittle batting lineup, Australia collapsed like a house of cards with a 4-0 series loss in India, and were riven by internal strife which led to their coach Mickey Arthur being sacked weeks before the Ashes.

Australia's struggles in England were difficult to watch for Ponting, who disliked how new coach Darren Lehmann and his fellow selectors shunted batsmen in and out of the side, and up and down the order, in a vain bid to find a formula for success.

The constant state of flux was unfair on the younger batsmen, said Ponting, who had played as if they had an axe hovering just above their heads.

"Having been there, towards the end of my career, I can fully understand how difficult it is to play when you think you're getting close to the end," he said.

Pundits in both hemispheres lined up to stick the boot in to the visitors, rating Clarke's team among the worst Australian sides to tour England. Few have given them much hope in the return series.

The man nicknamed 'Punter' sees shorter odds for an upset, however, and felt satisfied Australia had recovered some of their traditional "niggle" in their dealings with England, despite the one-sided scoreline.

"Looking back through my time as player, the Australian teams tended to play their best when the cricket was like that," he said.

"I think there was a little bit there in the last series just watching from the sidelines.

"It seemed like it was back to playing test cricket the way we like to play it, the way we all like to see it without it being over the top.

"There is a lot of negativity around about this current Australian team, how bad they are, and I honestly don't believe it's that bad," Ponting added.

"Just to get a couple of wins under our belt, get a bit of that winning feeling around the dressing room, things can actually turn around pretty quickly."

(Editing by John O'Brien)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

On Now: Kolkata vs Bangalore

On Now: Kolkata vs Bangalore

IPL 7, GAME 11—Bangalore bowl, Murali in, still no Gayle. KKR bring in Umesh, Lynn. More »

Kolkata bowling vs Bangalore batting might

Kolkata bowling vs Bangalore batting might

The likely return of Gayle will boost Bangalore, but the result could be determined by Kolkata's bowlers. More »

Boycotting IPL will not save cricket

Boycotting IPL will not save cricket

Boycotting the IPL as a means of protest against the grime in the game may not yield the desired results. More »

Gambhir a knock away from striking form - KKR coach

Gambhir a knock away from striking form - KKR coach

Gautam made an eight-ball duck in the opening game against Mumbai and in the second game against Delhi, he lasted only half those balls. More »

Rivals say Srini group delaying BCCI special general meeting

Rivals say Srini group delaying BCCI special general meeting

The group opposed to Srinivasan alleged that since BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel belongs to the president’s group, he was intentionally delaying the SGM… More »

April 24: A legend is born

As Sachin Tendulkar turns 41 - here's a look at some offbeat moments from the Master Blaster's innings. More »

Jadeja spins out Rajasthan in close chase

Jadeja spins out Rajasthan in close chase

IPL 7, GAME 10—Chennai beat Rajasthan by 7 runs after last-over scare. More »

Cleaning up the game starts with fans

Cleaning up the game starts with fans

... because, as recent events reveal, the BCCI has little intention of doing it. More »

SL in 'difficult place' after Farbrace exit

SL in 'difficult place' after Farbrace exit

Sri Lanka depart for assignments in Ireland and England in two weeks, and Sanath Jayasuriya suggested Marvan Atapattu would be interim head coach for those… More »

Vithanage, Priyanjan get T20 call-ups

Vithanage, Priyanjan get T20 call-ups

Herath has been rested, while the team will be without the veteran pair of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, who retired from T20 internationals… More »

Chandimal axed as T20 captain

Chandimal axed as T20 captain

Sri Lanka's cricket selectors on Wednesday sacked Dinesh Chandimal as Twenty20 captain and replaced him with Lasith Malinga, while Angelo Mathews was… More »

'BCCI should have picked panel with care'

'BCCI should have picked panel with care'

Dalmiya said that it was the first time that the BCCI had been faced with a situation where the apex court had hauled up the Board and it should have acted… More »

Farbrace is England's assistant coach

Farbrace is England's assistant coach

The ECB continued the restructuring of the England coaching set-up on Wednesday by announcing the appointment of Paul Farbrace as assistant coach. More »

SC asks Mudgal committee to continue

SC asks Mudgal committee to continue

Mukul Mudgal has communicated to the court his willingness to take up the investigation and has been asked to specify the terms and modalities on April… More »

Sri Lanka players resolve pay dispute

Sri Lanka players resolve pay dispute

The pay dispute between Sri Lanka Cricket and its 13 contracted players ended on Wednesday when the latter agreed to accept 10 percent of the participation… More »

Hope to be fit for next game - Pietersen

Hope to be fit for next game - Pietersen

With two heavy defeats at the hands of Bangalore and Chennai, Daredevils currently languish near the bottom of the table. More »

'SC decision could hurt BCCI's status'

'SC decision could hurt BCCI's status'

The Supreme Court prefers that the Justice Mudgal panel further investigate the IPL corruption scandal. More »

Mudgal panel drops bombshell in court

Mudgal panel drops bombshell in court

The Mukul Mudgal probe committee dropped a bombshell in the Supreme Court on Tuesday by making a sensational claim that it was forced to stop audio recording… More »

Perfect Punjab trounce Hyderabad

Perfect Punjab trounce Hyderabad

IPL7, GAME 9—Maxwell (95, 43b), Balaji (4-13) set up 72-run win. More »

Have the ECB played an unfair game?

Have the ECB played an unfair game?

Money talks, but it is in light of this ICC shakeup that the ECB's act of soliciting of another team's coach deteriorates from free-market aggression to… More »

Farbrace quits for England post

Farbrace quits for England post

He will assist Peter Moores who was unveiled as the new England coach on Saturday. More »

Moin appointed to manage Pakistan team

Moin appointed to manage Pakistan team

Pakistan on Monday reappointed Moin Khan as chief selector and manager of the national team, a week after fellow former captain Rashid Latif turned down… More »

Chennai smash Delhi for first win

Chennai smash Delhi for first win

IPL7, MATCH 8—Raina-led middle order, superlative catching give CSK a 93-run win. More »

'BCCI reputation lowest in 80 years'

'BCCI reputation lowest in 80 years'

The former BCCI president says he was "disillusioned" by the happenings at the emergent working committee meeting on Sunday. More »