Ricky Ponting believes that Australia are capable of reaffirming their status as the leading nation in Test cricket, but to do so they must put their 2-0 series loss to India behind them as quickly as possible. Ponting was speaking at Sydney Airport, after his team's return from India, and with six Tests in prospect against New Zealand and South Africa, his sights were set firmly on victory.
"I've got total confidence that we can bounce back and that we can win every Test we play in Australia this year," he said. "It's important we put that series behind us as quickly as we can and we start focussing on whatever positives there were out of the Indian series and start looking ahead to New Zealand and South Africa in Australia."
Australia's defeat in India has raised concerns that the world champions' dominance of the game is fading, particularly after the retirement of the likes of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist. But Ponting said the team was motivated to get back to winning ways fast. "Just seeing the look on some of the guys' faces on the plane," he said, "there is genuine excitement about moving on from the Indian series."
Australia were outplayed in every aspect in India, with Ponting coming under intense criticism for his handling of the deciding fourth Test in Nagpur, with commentators suggesting he used part-time bowlers instead of his strike options at a crucial point of the game because he was too worried about being penalised for a slow over-rate to press for victory. But Ponting hit back at his critics.
"I still feel the decisions I made weren't negative at all, I've had an opportunity to sit back over the last couple of days and think about those decisions I made there and then," he said. "Even talking to other players, I'm very comfortable with the decision that I made."
Ponting said over rates had been an issue for Australia for a long time and it had come back to bite them. He said the problems at tea in Nagpur had sneaked up on him - an hour before the break they were six overs down.
"Six overs down in a Test match is manageable, understanding that at some stage later in that afternoon we were going to have to bowl spin for a long period of time," he said. "The fast bowlers bowling the way they were going into the tea break meant that when I went back on to the field after tea the umpires alerted me to the fact that I was nine overs down and that obviously becomes a big problem then."
Ponting said there would be no change in his aggressive manner as the team leader. "I will continue to be a ruthless captain and a ruthless player and I expect all my other team-mates are in exactly the same boat," he said. "And if they're not now, having lost a Test series in India 2-0, we have to look around for some other guys."
Ponting predicted his team would play "some of the best Test cricket we've seen for a while" during the summer series in Australia but acknowledged they had to improve their game. "We have to play at a higher level than we did through the India tour, there's no doubt about that, and there's no excuses and there's no reason why we can't."