Ponting impressed with Test squad's depth
Australia's series victory was not as emphatic as they had hoped but Ricky Ponting was happy with the long list of contributors to the 2-0 result over West Indies. Matthew Hayden was unable to play any of the Tests due to a lingering achilles tendon problem and Stuart MacGill departed mid-tour, leaving Australia with an unfamiliar-looking line-up.
They were already in transition mode following a host of key retirements in the past 18 months, but Ponting said the efforts of the replacement players gave him confidence the team's future was in good hands. Beau Casson debuted in Barbados and picked up three wickets in the second innings to help seal a 87-run victory and Simon Katich made two centuries in the series, which was his first international outing since 2005.
"It's given an opportunity for some of our younger players in Australia to show what they've got and I think all the guys who have been given an opportunity in the last 12 months have stood up and done a really great job," Ponting said after the game. "You look at this series, Simon Katich has been terrific for us at the top of the order, and Phil Jaques bounced back to form in this game.
"Beau Casson makes his debut and takes wickets for us on the last day, which is what you need from a spinner. So all the guys who have come into the side can hold their head up high and say that they've done a really good job for the team over the last few weeks."
Ponting is enjoying having so many different people in the squad. "I actually said when some of the more senior players moved on that I felt it was going to be one of the more exciting periods in my career to have some new, fresh faces around the team," Ponting told AFP. "I thought it was going to be exciting, and it has been, it has been great.
"I have enjoyed having guys making their debuts and guys who have played a handful of Tests in the side because I feel I have a lot to offer to those guys by way of experience and know-how in certain situations in games. If I can go and say one thing to them that is going to help them out in situations in games, I feel that's my job."
West Indies scared Australia on the fifth day when, despite chasing what would have been a world-record 475, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Dwayne Bravo anchored a remarkably strong effort from a side not renowned for its tenacity against the odds. It was typical of the fight the hosts displayed throughout the series and Ponting was impressed.
"This game here has gone pretty much to plan for us but the West Indies have got a lot of positives out of this as well," he said. "The way they attacked the run chase in the second innings, I thought showed a lot of heart and a lot of character. Luckily for us we batted well enough in the second innings to set up a really big lead."
That advantage was based around 157 from Katich, who was named Man of the Match, and his strong tour resulted in him finishing second to Ponting on Australia's series run tally with 319 at 63.80. Katich enjoyed being back in the Test set-up after a lengthy absence and he is philosophical about his likely demotion for Australia's next Test, against India in October.
"If Matty Hayden hadn't have got injured I probably would have been pouring some drinks," Katich said. "Obviously if Matty gets fit he'll be back in, because he's a champion. It's just nice to be back in the squad and I've really enjoyed playing here."
Ponting said some of the conditions the team had experienced in the Caribbean would be useful preparation for India, and the side also learned it needed to be more patient. "There are lots of positives there for us, but we're probably not demolishing sides like we might have done two years ago," he said. "We are grinding teams down and winning Test matches, and we're doing it well.
"It's the style of play more than anything else. You have to accept that the game may go into the fifth day and you have to be patient. You have to grind an innings out, or in the middle of a bowling spell, not try to attack too much."