The Ashes 2013 May 29, 2013

Ponting backtracks over Ashes SOS

Brydon Coverdale and David Hopps

For a few, brief hours, Ashes nostalgia got the better of Ricky Ponting as he indicated that he would be prepared to answer an SOS call from Michael Clarke and help out Australia in the Ashes.

"You wouldn't say no, would you, if that call came and I would never say never," Ponting told the Daily Mail when asked if he would consider an Ashes comeback. "But you have to say a call-up like that now is extremely unlikely."

But never again the twain shall meet, unless it's for a beer as Michael Clarke's men tour the country. A Ponting return would have been akin to a desperate England sending for a 41-year-old Colin Cowdrey midway through the 1974-75 Ashes. In other words, it sounded from the outset as likely as David Warner hiring Robert Craddock to write his biography.

A good night's sleep later, Ponting reconfirmed his international retirement. He had never seriously intended to suggest he was fingering his mobile, awaiting a call. One of cricket's toughest performers was just indulging in a flight of fancy.

"I did an interview with the Mail yesterday and probably didn't answer this question exactly the way I would have liked," he told Sky Sports. "I'm a happily retired international cricketer. There'll be a squad of 17, 18 players and there'll be reserve batsmen on standby, ready to go if anyone in the starting XI loses a bit of form.

"I won't be playing Ashes cricket this time, there's no doubt about that. I'm pleased everyone out there thinks that there's still an opportunity, that I might be good enough to play, but I'm happily retired and it's time for the young guys now to make the most of their opportunities."

To date, Michael Vaughan, his opposite number as England captain in 2005, has been able to keep his excitement in check. Clarke, too, presented a straight bat when asked about a possibly Ponting return at his Champions Trophy press conference in Cardiff on Wednesday.

"You should never say never in life, that's for sure, but I think Ricky also made it very clear that his time had finished at international level," Clarke said. "He's retired from the Australian cricket team. I hear he's very focused and excited about being a part of the Surrey team. Right now we have a 15-man Champions Trophy squad, and then we'll have a 16-man Ashes squad. Ricky is not selected in either of those squads at this stage."

Ponting will be in England for a county stint with Surrey in June and July and it could make for an interesting sideshow if he continues the first-class form that he showed for Tasmania after his Test retirement - he topped the Sheffield Shield run tally with 911 at 75.91. Australia's batsmen struggled in India in February and March on their first Test tour since the departures of Ponting and Michael Hussey and several top-order men will enter the Ashes under pressure.

There is no question that Ponting's decision to play on after giving up the captaincy was made with this Ashes tour in mind. But by the end of the home series against South Africa late last year, when he was embarrassed at his output of 32 runs in five innings, he knew that the time had come to retire, or risk a tap on the shoulder from the selectors.

"I felt Australia would have been a stronger side in this Ashes with both me and Mike Hussey in the side," Ponting said. "The Ashes are the pinnacle and England is the greatest tour to be on. But the bottom line is I just wasn't good enough any more to be a part of this team. I knew that.

"Hussey is missing because of different circumstances and I'm surprised he's not here but I know how hard it can be to keep on touring with a young family. As for me, my time had just come. I knew it so I had to bow out against South Africa. It's down to the young lads now."

While they're all young lads to Ponting, some members of Australia's squad are not so youthful by international cricket standards: the selectors hope that the recall of the 35-year-olds Chris Rogers and Brad Haddin will add some experience and stability to the side. Much will depend on the form of Clarke, but Ponting believes the series could be closer than many people expect and he said the output of the other batsmen like Warner, Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes and Shane Watson would be critical.

"I think it's going to be a lot tighter than a lot of people have been saying," he said. "There has been a lot of doom and gloom and negativity about our side but not too long ago we were all being pretty positive about where we stood. Our batting is the key. If it can stand up to the English bowling then we will be competitive. We have a good, solid number of bowlers and our young quicks are really exciting as a fast-bowling group.

"England are a very good side, and they played exceptionally well against us in Australia last time. I must admit Alastair Cook surprised me in that series but I see he's just got his 25th Test century and he's proving a worthy successor as captain to Andrew Strauss. Joe Root looks a good young player, Jonny Bairstow has something about him and when Kevin Pietersen is fit England will be getting a world-class player again. They are a quality side - but quality sides have been beaten in the past."

Another important factor for the Australians will be their preparation and off-field efforts, which slipped so significantly on the Indian tour that Clarke, coach Mickey Arthur and team manager Gavin Dovey suspended four players for not completed a so-called "homework task". Ponting said he was uncertain how he would have dealt with such issues if he had still been in charge.

"I can understand what the captain and coach were trying to achieve but I'm not sure I totally agree with what happened," he said. "I don't know for sure how I would have handled that situation but those type of things didn't happen when I was captain."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kenso on June 3, 2013, 6:03 GMT

    Imagine what a series it would be with Hussey and Ponting in the Australian line up! I dont understand why Ponting wouldnt put his hand up... Hes scoring runs in England against English bowlers. He would walk into the current team based on experience and form and no one could argue with the selection given the poor record of at least three top order australians. Punter pick up the phone, call pup and rectify the one final blemish on a stellar career.

  • Dummy4 on June 2, 2013, 7:02 GMT

    bring back ponting .....! we want legend to ashes ..! our request

  • Rich on June 1, 2013, 6:36 GMT

    Would be great to see Punter back scoring runs but someone needs to step up now for Oz and be the next punter.

  • Dean on May 31, 2013, 11:51 GMT

    @Scott Stevo & @Trickstar - The argument is pointless the ashes will not be decided by who scored the most points against SAF last year. Ultimatley both teams lost the series so it's time to move on on focus on what there is to come.

  • Dummy4 on May 31, 2013, 0:41 GMT

    Ricky Ponting doing his best impersonation of Michael Slater's calling between the wickets.

  • Scott on May 30, 2013, 13:26 GMT

    @Trickstar, Actually, you had 1 shocking game against SA, 1 poor game and one closely resembling not being poor, but you were still poor. please don't tell me that the wash out helped SA in any way as you'd have lost the series 3-0. In fact, at no point in time were SA threatened in any way and looked the more likely victor in each of the 3 tests. Whereas Australia looked the more likely victor in 2 out of our 3 and only a miracluous performance saved them. There's no way that 2 of the ENG/SA matches were "competitive" as you put it as there was only ever one team looking like winning - that's not competitive. Whereas in 2 of 3 matches Aus looked likely winners and had a shocker in the last to lose. As for the last 2 times we played Eng, in Oz we were awful and rightly got beaten. In 09 it's a statistical anomaly and it's hard to comprehend how we lost that. That's right, it rained for half a day in Cardiff to save you...

  • Sreenath on May 30, 2013, 12:35 GMT

    I am sure it is going to be one sided Ashes. It is time for England to show there Dominance. Clarke, Watson are the only good prospects for Aussies. In bowling Jhonson, siddle, cusmmins, pattinson are good prospects. In Bowling not bad... But England have good attack in Batting and Bowling...

  • Frank on May 30, 2013, 12:22 GMT

    @Front-Foot-Lunge Did you even read the article. This is just Ponting talking rubbish about a hypothetical situation. Clarke hasn't sent an SOS message, Clarke has actually stated on many occasions that he doesn't think AUS need Ponting and Hussey. News flash buddy your precious Anderson and co aren't the world beater Australia were 5-10 yrs ago or the present day SA. Both nations in this series are miles behind the now cricketing powerhouse of SA. England will need to get their head out of the clouds before this series, or they'll get a nasty surprise come July. I can't wait.

  • Nicholas on May 30, 2013, 12:20 GMT

    We all know that the Australian squad which has been publicly announced is just a ruse, and that come the first test, the 1-2-3 will be: Hussey, Katich, Ponting!!

  • Malik on May 30, 2013, 11:25 GMT

    Bring back Ponting and Hussey if Austrailian wants to be competitive, otherwise it will be a 1 sided context (like late 90's and early 2000)