Ponting admits to captaincy concerns
Ricky Ponting needed to have his concerns assuaged by the national selector John Inverarity before he accepted the stand-in captaincy for Friday's triangular series match against Sri Lanka in Sydney.
Aware that Michael Clarke had strained a hamstring at the conclusion of Sunday's loss to India, Ponting took the vice-captain David Warner aside in the Adelaide Oval dressing room to say "make sure you've got yourself ready to captain Australia in a couple of days' time". However Ponting then took the call of Inverarity, who explained that Warner was not yet ready for the position, compelling the selectors to go back to the former captain at the SCG.
"I did have a think about it and I had a good chat to John Inverarity about that and what some of my concerns were around that," Ponting said on match eve. "But I decided to do what they wanted me to do and what I felt was probably right for the team right at the moment.
"We've got a few of our experienced guys out on the sidelines at the moment, and I know Dave Warner had been named vice-captain at the start of the one-day series and the selectors made it very clear why they haven't given him the captaincy for this game. I'm excited about leading the team again but hopefully it's only for a very short period of time.
"[My concerns] were all the things that have already been spoken about in the media in the past couple of days. The fact there was a vice-captain named and it looked like I was coming over the top of him and maybe not giving a younger guy an opportunity to captain Australia. They were the things I spoke to John about, but the fact they'd actually asked me, they'd put a lot of time and thought and energy into making me come back into this role, so I agreed to do it and felt and still feel right now that it's probably the best decision for the team."
Ponting said he would now be spending plenty of time with Warner over the next two days or more - depending on whether or not Clarke returns from his hamstring strain in time for Sunday's match against India at the Gabba - to impart as much wisdom as he could about captaincy and leadership. Their dialogue had begun when Warner called Ponting upon hearing he had been appointed captain, offering a cheeky rejoinder to the earlier dressing room conversation.
"As soon as the game finished in Adelaide I actually dragged [Warner] over and made him sit with me for a few minutes and I said to him then 'make sure you've got yourself ready to captain Australia in a couple of days' time'," Ponting said. "Then as soon as the decision was made he was on the phone to me straight away saying 'don't worry about me, you better make sure you're ready to captain the team', so we've had a bit of a chat about it. Davey's very clear on the direction the selectors have taken, and I'm just going to do the best I can to make sure he gets the most out of the game that he possibly can.
"As I've always done when I was captain is ask the opinions of the players out on the field at different times in the game and for Friday's game it'll be Davey that I'll be going to a lot to one let him know what my ideas are and what we're trying to achieve and also try to get some ideas out of him as to where he sees the game at any particular time. I think he came out yesterday and said he enjoys working under Michael and George Bailey in the T20s and for him tomorrow he's got a chance to work with me and I'm looking forward to that."
Chief among Ponting's priorities for the match against Sri Lanka is to help refocus a team that struggled for energy and precision in the field in Adelaide - perhaps a hangover from the Perth commute, having played a match on the west coast on Friday night.
"That's the hardest one you have during the summer, there's no doubt about that," Ponting said. "When you're travelling from Sydney to Brisbane like we are this week then it's not as big a deal. Coming from Perth, we left at one o'clock and arrived in Adelaide about half past six. Then you're having dinner and up and playing the next day. Probably for the fast bowlers in particular that was the hardest thing that they'll have to do for the summer.
"We're not using that as an excuse. We knew about that at the start of the summer and we have to gear our training and our preparation around a trip like that. That game's behind us now. We've got to look forward to this week and make sure we're lifting our standards again."
It should not be forgotten either that Ponting's own start to the series has been particularly quiet, returning scores of 2, 1 and 6. So amid all the assorted concerns of captaincy, Ponting said he was making sure he paid adequate attention to his own batting, having scaled considerable heights during the Test series against India.
"I've been doing pretty much the same stuff this series as I was doing towards the end of the Test series," Ponting said. "To miss out in the first couple of games, you have a reasonable break between games. We're playing Friday-Sunday right through this tournament so it's a little bit hard to get some momentum going when you've got that big break between games.
"Today becomes an important day for me as far as my preparation is concerns to get everything out of it I can. It's important for the team as well. We started this series really well and our last two performances probably haven't been at the level that we'd expect of ourselves so we have to make sure that by the end of training today we've got ourselves back to a level that's going to be good enough to dominate the remaining games."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here