Ponting motivated by Ashes failures
Ricky Ponting has said he is motivated every day by the memories of losing the past two Ashes series in England and he hopes to retain his place long enough to have another chance to win the urn away from home. Ponting will be 38 when Australia tour England next year and having had his ODI career ended by the national selectors earlier this year, he knows that he will not make the trip unless his form over the coming 12 months justifies it.
As a Test-only player, Ponting now has plenty of down-time to ponder his goals, and while his colleagues fly out for a limited-overs tour of the UAE this month he will remain at home, working on his game. And visions of Michael Vaughan, Andrew Strauss and their team-mates raising the urn in triumph at The Oval will not disappear.
"It's one of the biggest motivators I have right now. Every morning I get up and go to the gym and I'm pounding away on the bike or the treadmill, it's with some of the memories of The Oval still in my mind from the last couple of tours," Ponting told ABC Radio on Monday. "They're things that don't go away quickly.
"We've been very close over there on the last couple of tours, haven't quite been good enough and we were nowhere good enough when England were in Australia last time. I think all Australian Test players have a point to prove to England and probably more of a point to prove in England."
But while thoughts of an Ashes redemption are in Ponting's mind, he knows that he cannot afford to overlook the many contests looming before that trip. His next engagement for Australia will be the Test series against South Africa starting in early November, before three Tests against Sri Lanka, and then a tour of India before the Ashes.
There is also the prospect of playing in two more Ashes battles, for back-to-back series have been scheduled for next year, with England to tour Australia barely six months after the series in England. By then Ponting will be 39, and while reaching that point while remaining in the baggy green might seem like a best-case scenario for him, it is not a goal he thinks is out of reach.
"It might be easier to sustain now that I'm only playing one form of the game," Ponting said of the desire to keep playing. "The amount of cricket that I've played over the last 15 years is pretty immense, 160-odd Tests and 370 one-dayers… that's a lot of cricket. Now that I'm not playing that one-day side of things I'm playing a few [Sheffield] Shield games this year, a few Ryobi Cup games, I'll get a few more Hurricanes games this year, but as far as where do I end, that all depends on how my hunger is and how I'm playing and how my form is.
"We've got 18 months of some of the most competitive Test cricket that we've had in a long time: South Africa in Australia, India in India and then the Ashes, back-to-back series pretty much. It doesn't get any bigger or better than that for an Australian cricketer. If I can make it through to the end of that, that would be great. If I can play well enough to have an impact on some wins through that period that would be great as well. Really for me all I can focus on now is being right for the start of November."
In Ponting's favour is the fact that few middle-order batsmen are knocking the door down at domestic level. The national selector John Inverarity has spoken of George Bailey, Peter Forrest and David Hussey potentially being the next men in line for Test cricket but none have dominated in the Shield over the past few years to the extent that their case is irresistible. Ponting said he would accept it if he lost his place to someone more deserving.
"If there's someone out there better than me that is breathing down my neck and pushing me out the side, that's international sport," he said. "If there's someone better than Michael Hussey or David Warner that's the way it is. You have to be picking the best team to win every game you play. I honestly think if we play the way these guys can play and we just do things that little bit better … they'll find it hard to beat us - I don't care who we play."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here