Dumped Ponting hopes to cling to Test spot

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 21, 2012 08:24 hrs

Melbourne: Whether it be pulling a short delivery to the fence or plucking a lightning-quick catch in the slips, Ricky Ponting's formidable powers of anticipation have rarely been questioned throughout his storied career.

So it is something of a surprise that the former Australian skipper, who scored just 18 runs in five games in the ongoing Tri-series against India and Sri Lanka, failed to spot the selectors' axe swinging at him.

Ponting, the second-most prolific scorer in the format after Sachin Tendulkar, said Monday's decision to drop him from Australia's one-day international side had come out of the blue but that he accepted his ODI career was over.

The axe fell a day after Ponting, standing in as skipper for the injured Michael Clarke, led Australia to an emphatic 110-run win over India in Brisbane to regain top spot in the triangular one-day tournament.

Darting around the field to chop off singles and cajole his team mates into wrapping up victory quickly, the spry 37-year-old appeared in no hurry to call time on a career of 375 one-day matches and three World Cup victories.

Despite the praise lavished on him by selectors as a brilliant fielder and mentor to the next generation in a re-building team, his 165th win as captain could not gloss over his fifth consecutive failure with the bat.

Ponting had been bowled over when chief selector John Inverarity delivered the decision but the defiant Tasmanian quickly regained his composure and is now focused on keeping his test career alive.

"I've got no bitterness at all as to what's happened," said Ponting, who will return to the domestic Sheffield Shield competition to prepare for Australia's tour of West Indies.

"I'm still firmly of the belief that I've got a lot to offer any cricket team that I play with, any team I'm a part of.

"Did the thought of (retirement) come into my mind? The thing that I thought about most yesterday was just how I was going to manage my time and to be well prepared to play every test match I play for the rest of my career.

"That obviously, now with no one-day international cricket, that becomes a little bit more difficult for me, but there are other players around Australia at the moment who play test cricket only."

A poor run of form at test level coming into the Australian summer had the knives out for Ponting, who merely gritted his teeth and got on with the job of crushing India as the hosts charged to 4-0 whitewash in the test series.

Ponting blasted 544 runs at an average of 108 for the series, but appeared strangely out-of-sorts from the start of the one-day tournament.

His coach Mickey Arthur, also a selector, said he was "jaded" and in need of a rest and warned him to make runs in his final match against India.

Ponting brushed off notions that fatigue after a long summer of cricket had taken its toll, saying his body was fine and that it was his mind that had failed to keep pace.

Despite being denied the chance to choose the manner of his exit, or even play a farewell ODI in front of home fans in Hobart against Sri Lanka Friday, Ponting was philosophical as he addressed reporters, relaxed and looking dapper in a sports jacket and white shirt.

"Of course I felt there was still room in the team (for me)," he said, smiling. "But when you don't make runs in five consecutive games you understand that there's an opportunity for selectors to leave you out."

Their decision was unanimous, according to panel chief Inverarity, meaning Clarke and Arthur both had a hand in pushing him toward the exit.

For all the raging debate in Australia about his place in the side in recent months, it is unlikely to be a popular decision.

"Ricky Pontings Omission from the National 1 Day side is an outrage!" former Australia Open Matthew Hayden said on his Twitter site.

While the decision to drop him will not sit well with Ponting, he may well respect the selectors' cold-blooded execution, having been nurtured in a succession of champion teams and carrying on their culture of winning, at all costs, into his time as captain.

"Everyone understands where they sit now in the Australian cricket team," said Ponting, who smashed 30 ODI centuries, including an unbeaten 140 against India in the final of the 2003 World Cup to win Australia a second successive trophy.

"I think in international sport, if you're not performing for a short period of time now you're a chance to be left out of the side.

"And that's the way it should be."

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