Former skipper Ricky Ponting has said his hunger to help Australia regain the Ashes is undiminished, but accepted that if he doesn't perform well in the next series against South Africa, his hopes of playing against old enemy England will be dashed.
Ponting has nominated Ashes redemption in England next year as his goal.
Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board changed the Ashes cycle to include back-to-back series in 2013 and 2013-14 to break the pattern of England tours of Australia leading into World Cups.
Ponting admitted he found the long winter break, courtesy of his absence from the one-day team, more difficult than expected, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
He took two months off after the West Indies tour in April but has been training hard to prepare for the start of the Sheffield Shield season with Tasmania and a rematch with the Dale Steyn-led Proteas attack from December 9.
"With South Africa here in a few months' time and then India there and then an Ashes tour; they're the three biggest Test series you play. There's certainly enough to keep me motivated, and I wouldn't have been up in the gym at seven o' clock every morning for the last month if I wasn't," Ponting said.
"If that means I'm good enough to get through to an Ashes series in England, that would be great, and then we know the next Ashes series is pretty much right on the back of that. That would be an ideal way to finish but I've got to make sure I'm good enough to get there first.
"There's not much of a gap, but I'm not looking any further forward than the Test series against South Africa because I know if I don't nail that it's a waste of time anyway. That's how it is, and I'll give it my best."'
The lack of depth in Australian batting has been noted by senior figures, leading to a heavy reliance on veteran Test batsmen. (ANI)