Ricky Ponting confident of playing on Boxing Day
Ricky Ponting is likely to continue his streak of not having missed a Test for Australia since October 2004, after his left elbow showed no ill effects from two days of batting in the nets ahead of the Boxing Day Test against Pakistan at the MCG. Ponting was hit by Kemar Roach, the West Indies fast bowler, during the Perth Test last week and had to retire hurt with tendon damage. He batted in the second innings, but only at number nine, and in some discomfort, lasting only nine deliveries and was considered at the time a serious doubt for Melbourne.
But the two-day build up to Boxing Day has left Ponting very confident, even if he takes the unusual step of batting with an arm guard in the Test. "I went well today actually, I went better than yesterday," Ponting said. "I had a bit of pain yesterday in the nets but I was always going to bat two days leading into the game. I'm really confident I can play the game. [Phillip ]Hughesy will stay here till the game starts just to wait to see how I wake up in the morning but I am pretty confident I will start."
The sense of occasion around the Boxing Day Test will not be allowed to cloud judgment over whether Ponting plays, however, and only if the captain wakes up feeling fine in the morning will he lead his side out. "I'm not going to be playing until I feel I can play to my capabilities, it's as simple as that," Ponting said. "At some stage I will probably have some discomfort but it is nothing to stop me functioning. That is the thing I have been gauging over the last couple of days: is the pain too much to stop me functioning in the right way and it certainly hasn't been that. I'm surprised at how well I woke up this morning, how much better I feel today.
"The reason I retired hurt in Perth - I could've kept batting, stood around with one arm - but where the game was at that stage I felt other guys had a better chance of taking the game forward than I did at that time. It is a huge responsibility on players to be honest when they are going into a game. In five-day games it is easy to get caught out and with one player going down it is the difference between winning and losing a match and therefore winning and losing a series. I've said all through the week that I won't be silly with it and do everything in my power to give myself best chance to play. That's what I've done, worked tirelessly to get my elbow right and it feels really good at the moment."
If he does play, he is likely to do so with an arm guard, a piece of protection he has avoided through his career and one which he admits will involve swallowing a little pride. "I wore it at training yesterday and got 30-40 text messages from mates who'd seen me wearing it. I swallowed the pride and put it on again today - one thing that is going to rule me out is another hit. I wanted to face [Peter] Siddle and [Doug] Bollinger with the new ball this morning, I wanted them to have a bit of a crack as well just to test me out as much as possible so I thought I would put it on this morning. If I happen to wear it tomorrow I might put on a long sleeve shirt to cover it over."
In addition to inflicting that injury, Roach dismissed Ponting three times out of five in the recent series, leading his captain Chris Gayle to claim that the Australian captain had a glaring weakness against the short ball. In Umar Gul and Mohammad Aamer, Pakistan has two bowlers quick enough to test the claim, even if Ponting is widely considered to be one of the best pullers in the modern game. "I've been hit on the arm once in my career so if I have a weakness against the short ball, I'll find out over the next few weeks because the Pakistanis have got some good fast bowlers. I'm more than happy for them to bowl short at me all day."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo