Australia news March 30, 2011

Ponting vows to stay in the 'background'

ESPNcricinfo staff

Ricky Ponting has said that he will be "in the background" for Australia's new captain Michael Clarke, if he needs him, but he expects the Tests and ODI teams to be solely Clarke's domain. Ponting stepped down as Australia captain on Tuesday and Clarke was named his successor on Wedneday, but Ponting will play on, starting with April's one-day tour of Bangladesh.

Ponting wrote in his column in the Australian that he "will be one of many players who follow him [Clarke] on to cricket grounds all over the world". Ponting said he expected to adapt very quickly to his new role, and his focus was on "being the best player I can be, a great team-mate, an experienced leader around the group and a guy that my new captain can rely upon to give him something special".

The decision for Ponting to continue as a player has been the topic of much discussion, but Clarke laughed off any suggestions that Ponting would be "the elephant in the room". It is much more common in other countries for an ex-captain to play on but it has not been the trend in Australia in recent decades, with Kim Hughes the last man to resign as leader and keep playing.

Hughes does not believe Ponting's decision to keep playing Tests and ODIs will make things awkward for Clarke. "Michael and Ricky go back a fair way," Hughes told the Age, "and Michael will know that Ricky doesn't want to be captain again; Ricky becomes a senior player and I wouldn't be surprised if he seeks his advice along with the vice-captain.

''I think it is tremendous that he wants to be there, a credit to him and his commitment to Clarke and the Australian side."

The former captain Allan Border said Ponting's decision to bat on would help ease the transition as new players come into the team. ''In my mind he is still our best player and as such I believe he deserves to be picked,'' Border said on Fox Sports.

''Yes, you have to keep an eye on the future and all that but the burden of the captaincy in recent times may have been weighing heavily on his mind and giving away the captaincy might just free him up to play some of his best cricket over the next couple of years. He can be a fantastic mentor … and allow the new captain a bit more freedom to concentrate on his own game.''

Graham Yallop, who played on for almost five years under Greg Chappell and Hughes and played some of his finest innings in that period, also predicted a smooth transition. "My desire to keep playing, because I was only young, was uppermost in my mind so there were no hard feelings," Yallop said. " [Ponting's] desire to play on at the top level is a great credit to him because he doesn't have to, and he can assist Australian cricket for another two or three years.''

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