Coach tells Ponting there's no hurry
Ricky Ponting should not feel obliged to leave his family health issues behind and rush to South Africa for the ICC World Twenty20, according to Australia's coach Tim Nielsen. Ponting did not fly to Johannesburg with the rest of the squad on Monday and there is still a possibility he will miss part or all of the tournament.
However, Nielsen said Ponting should not join the group unless he truly was ready. "It's difficult to keep your eye on the ball when you do have issues and you are 14 hours away on a plane and know you wouldn't be able to get home for a couple of days," Nielsen told the Australian.
"Ideally, when he gets here, everything will be fine and he'll have things organised so he can concentrate 100% on cricket. It's more important from my perspective that he's got everything fixed up at home and he's happy so he can come over here comfortable where he's at and what's going on with the issues he has."
Ponting is almost certain to miss Australia's warm-up games on Sunday and Nielsen said it would be far from ideal for the captain to fly in and immediately take the field in the first match against Zimbabwe on Wednesday. "You'd be more concerned if it was a 19-year-old," Nielsen said, "but with someone who has played about 110 Tests and 280 one-day games and has been around the track a few times ... he'll adapt pretty quickly."
Stuart Clark, who also stayed at home to care for his ill son, will arrive in South Africa today but Shane Watson's hamstring injury is still a cause for concern. Watson will be assessed on Friday before Australia decide whether to send him to the tournament or find a replacement.
"If he's not much chop by the end of the week we'll have to sit down and figure out what we're going to do with him," Nielsen said. "He's starting to show some good signs and all things at the moment are positive. It wasn't a massive tear, it was a strain, and what the MRI scan showed was a good result for him."
Nielsen said Australia would be reluctant to risk Watson if there was any danger he would aggravate the injury. He missed the entire Ashes series last season with hamstring troubles that gradually worsened as he tried to rush back.
Choosing a replacement, if necessary, would be complicated as the leading candidates are in Pakistan on tour with Australia A. Cameron White and James Hopes could both fit into Australia's allrounder slot but Nielsen said Australia were leaning towards keeping Watson in the squad instead.
"We need to make a good, educated decision, not knee-jerk and get someone here and find they're not going to play much," he said. "They would miss out on playing three one-dayers and a couple of really tough four-day games over there [Pakistan], which would be a great experience for them leading into the summer."