Australia in Sri Lanka 2011 August 15, 2011

Ponting 'fresher' without captaincy burden

ESPNcricinfo staff

Ricky Ponting has said he is enjoying his new batsman-only role after giving up the captaincy following Australia's disappointing World Cup earlier this year. Ponting handed the leadership to Michael Clarke but decided against retiring, and it's a move that has allowed him to concentrate solely on his run-scoring.

In the last year of his captaincy, Ponting struggled to have an impact with the bat, and averaged 30.23 in one-day internationals and 29 in Test cricket. But half-centuries in his two innings in Sri Lanka over the past week have been encouraging, especially an unbeaten 90 that helped Australia to an eight-wicket win in Hambantota on Sunday, where Ponting earned his first ODI Man-of-the-Match award in 18 months.

"It probably has," Ponting said when asked if relinquishing the leadership had allowed him to focus more on his batting. "The World Cup didn't go to plan as I would have wanted. The one-day series in Bangladesh that I played when I wasn't captain, I felt like a played well there and I've started this series well.

"There's no doubt that for me to just be able to turn up to training and focus on my batting and my fielding only has been nice. I've been able to be just that little bit fresher and I've felt in control in the two games I've played here so far. Hopefully that continues for the rest of the tour."

By playing on after giving up as skipper, Ponting bucked the trend of recent Australian captains: he was the first since Kim Hughes nearly 30 years ago to play on. At 36, Ponting remains unsure how long he has left in the game, but he said for the time being he was keen to keep making runs at No. 3 and help Clarke in any way required.

"I thought long and hard about the decision I made," Ponting said. "Once I'd come to the conclusion that I wasn't the captain of the side anymore it was up to me to just be the best batsman that I could be for the side and another pair of ears for Michael if he ever wanted it. As the No. 3 batsman in the side there's a big responsibility for me to score runs more often than not. So far things have started well."

Australia have hardly been challenged in the opening two ODIs and they could wrap the series up with victory in the third match in Hambantota on Tuesday. So far their batsmen haven't had too much trouble against the Sri Lankan attack, so much so that the No. 6, David Hussey, has not yet been required to bat.