Ponting reveals 'long-term' batting plan;
Ricky ponting has revealed Shaun Marsh's elevation to No. 3 in the Australian Test batting order was a "long-term plan" of the captain Michael Clarke. Ponting said he was happy to move down to No. 4 for as long as he keeps on playing.
As he prepared for a rare Sheffield Shield appearance with Tasmania against Western Australia at the WACA, Ponting spoke frankly of the Test batting order, which has been shuffled to accommodate Marsh at three while Ponting, Clarke and Michael Hussey all slip one spot.
Clarke's vision for the team has so far been made clear, as he is equally adamant that the vice-captain Shane Watson will not be moving down the order from his demanding position as an opening batsman and allrounder.
"It was a long-term plan of Michael's to have Shaun move to No. 3 and me move to No.4 and Michael move to five and Huss to six," Ponting told reporters in Perth. "So that wasn't just something I don't think as a one-off for that game. Michael sees that in the best interests of the team going forward for a period of time. So I'll be three this week, probably three in the one-dayers in South Africa and then probably drop back to four for the Test matches.
"When I first came into the Australian side, batting at six was hard. Waiting that amount of time to bat for me was something that was very foreign to me. But three to four I don't think is as big a change as three to six, or it certainly wasn't in the last Test because I was in pretty early both times. Slight adjustment. It just gives me a little bit more time once our fielding's over to get my head around what I have to do to bat."
Ponting also spoke of the state of flux the team is presently in while Cricket Australia decides on a range of appointments recommended by the Argus review. The position of team performance manager must be finalised first, allowing the appointee to have a say in the choices of coach, national selector and part-time selectors.
This means that Clarke will go to South Africa with plenty of weight on his shoulders regarding decision-making, for the interim coach Troy Cooley has flagged his lack of experience as a selector and also an unwillingness to make any lasting changes to the set-up run with mixed results by the departed head coach Tim Nielsen over the past four years.
"Unfortunately at the moment the way things are working out a lot more of the responsibility is going to come back on the captain for this next tour," Ponting said. "So it's important that the captain, the vice-captain and probably the senior players do as much as we can around the group on this trip.
"Troy's been around the group for a long time and understands everyone really well, but he's sort of been thrust into that selection role at the moment as well which is something very foreign to him. We'll make do with the best we can. It's probably not an ideal situation, but we knew that a long way out and the boys have been playing that way so everything should work out fine."
Ponting said many of the changes wrought by the Argus review were designed to lessen the load on the captain, but reckoned the short-term would be difficult for Clarke while the new positions were filled and settled into.
"Having been there and done that in the past you want to be able to focus on your cricket and the team's demands and probably not much outside of that if you can," Ponting said. "That's why a lot of these roles are changing, to take a bit of that strain if you like off the captain. It's hard enough work when you're just out there being the captain and worrying about your own game rather than everything else that goes with it. We'll see how it goes, but he [Clarke] understands he's got great support from all his team-mates around him."
Ponting's appearances for Tasmania, who won the Shield in his absence last summer, would not be quite so rare if the schedule was balanced to ensure the strongest domestic competitions possible, something the Argus review also recommended.
"With the Australian summer as packed as it is internationally-wise, it just makes it too hard for the international players to play state cricket," Ponting said. "We'd all like the chance to be able to do that a bit more. I know the states and even our clubs would probably appreciate it if we can get back and spend more time around the next crop of potential international players."
While Hussey is missing the match after his time at the Champions League Twenty20, Ponting said he was never in any doubt for the fixture, and flatly rejected all reports to the contrary.
"Some confusion's probably happened as a result of our leave dates being changed, the coach at the time of the Australian team in Sri Lanka had ruled us out because the leave date was different than it is at the moment," Ponting said. "As it turns out I only found out on Thursday that I was playing the game but I've been excited about the chance to play the game."