Ponting endorses Clarke as successor
Ricky Ponting departed from the Australian captaincy with the warmest of endorsements for his heir-apparent Michael Clarke, and a concerted plea for the selectors to retain an ageing trio of Test batsmen.
Short of an extraordinary about-turn by Cricket Australia, 29-year-old Clarke will be named as captain of the team to tour Bangladesh, which will be announced on Wednesday, and Ponting will be on the brief trip as the senior pro.
His resignation was addressed with typical frankness in front of a vast assembly of media at the SCG, the same place Ponting's two Test captains, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh, had announced their retirements.
Ponting has differed from them, and Allan Border, by deciding to go on as a player, but he had no hesitation whatsoever in pushing Clarke as the new leader.
"Absolutely, I totally think that's the way it will go, for the sheer fact that he's done a terrific job in almost every game that he's had the chance to captain for Australia, starting with the Twenty20 team - I thought he did a great job there," said Ponting.
"What he did with the one day team in my absence, not only through the summer but in other tours was absolutely first-class, and I think he's certainly growing into those leadership roles every day, so I would totally endorse Michael Clarke as the next captain."
Clarke was first among Ponting's list of players and coaches whom he contacted when he finally deciding to relinquish the captaincy, a decision he reached late on Monday night after two days of introspection following an unsuccessful World Cup defence.
"I think Michael was quite surprised at the decision I'd made; he actually said he'd wished he'd known this a little bit earlier so he might've been able to help out in a few different ways if he could've throughout the World Cup campaign," said Ponting.
"But I've had a really good chat to him and he's probably reasonably excited [about] the fact I'm doing what I'm doing today."
Excited but also intimidated by what lies ahead. Beyond Bangladesh sit series against Sri Lanka, South Africa, New Zealand and India, only one of which this transitional Australian team would be widely expected to emerge from victorious. This schedule was chief among Ponting's thoughts when he chose the path of a swift resignation between tours.
"With the thinking I've had to do, the conversations I've had to have, the fact a Bangladesh touring squad is going to be announced tomorrow, I needed to get on top of it with the selectors; it's all been pretty rushed, but I'm very happy with the decision I've made and it will give the next captain a great opportunity to put his fingerprints on the Australian cricket team."
Ponting was forthright in his belief that he, Michael Hussey and Simon Katich must be dealt with carefully over the next 12 months. Arguing that their experience was pivotal to the development of what has so far been a faltering next generation, Ponting also said care must be taken to ensure they do not all retire at once.
"I think it's important for Australian cricket now that those guys are around," he said. "What I think you don't and you can't afford to ever have in a team is a mass exodus of all those sorts of players at once.
"I think we've seen that in the last couple of years when we had all the greats (Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Justin Langer) move at one time, it left us very bare and it's been hard for us to rebuild and get it back to where we want to as a result of that.
"So I think it's important the selectors take that on board [for] the next little period of time and make sure we don't have myself, Huss, Kato and those guys all leaving together because that would leave some incredibly big holes in the team."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo