Australia news February 21, 2012

Sutherland defends handling of Ponting axing

Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland has defended the selectors for abruptly ending Ricky Ponting's one-day international career mid-series. Ponting was axed from the squad after playing the first five matches of the tri-series and could have been given a home farewell - Australia's next game is in Hobart on Friday - but instead has made way immediately.

Ponting said on Tuesday that despite his poor run of form in one-day cricket he had not seen the decision coming, but that he accepted that the national selector John Inverarity and his panel were looking to the future. Sutherland, however, said that Ponting, at 37, would have known that a long lean patch would leave him at risk of being dropped, and that players were not always able to leave on their own terms.

"I don't know many players that aren't disappointed when they get dropped," Sutherland said. "That's just the facts of the matter. I don't think you should ... have any misunderstanding about where Ricky knew he was up to. I think to a certain extent that's inevitable at the age and stage he's at in his career. Players know that. They would know it in their own subconscious mind. But I can assure you he also knew that from [former chairman of selectors] Andrew Hilditch and he also knew that from John Inverarity.

"The selectors have to make a decision without fear or favour that is in the best interest of Australian cricket. They've made that decision. Not everyone will agree with that but they've made that decision and that's their job to do that."

Ponting's one-day form might have forced the selectors to make the tough call but his Test form remains strong, and he will play on for Australia in the baggy green. That means Ponting will need to return to state cricket, having played only six Sheffield Shield matches for Tasmania over the past decade, in order to maintain his fitness and touch between Australia's Test series.

The Tigers have two Shield matches remaining this summer and still remain in contention for the final, which could give Ponting three games ahead of the Test tour of the West Indies in April. Ponting's presence will mean that a younger batsman will miss out on exposure to state cricket but Sutherland said that was outweighed by the benefits Ponting would bring to his less experienced colleagues.

"The right players going back to Shield cricket is fantastic for Shield cricket," Sutherland said. "There is no doubt that Ricky Ponting is the right player to be going back to Shield cricket. The influence he's had on young Australian players this summer ... the example he sets but also the conscious effort he takes to mentor players and talk about his preparation, I think the Tasmanian cricket team is incredibly fortunate to have his presence for the next couple of Shield games and however long it goes from there."

Ponting will end his one-day international career having played 375 matches and scored 13,704 runs, comfortably Australia's most capped player and most prolific run scorer. Sutherland said his 17-year ODI career, which included triumphs in World Cups and Champions Trophies, as well as captaining more ODI victories than any other player, had been unparalleled.

"I think his career is incomparable in one-day cricket: five World Cups, four finals, three championships and two as captain, plus all the runs and special feats in the field," Sutherland said. "I just can't think of a player that has made a greater contribution and been a better one-day cricketer, particularly in the big moments."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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