Listen to Ponting's press conference audio here
So acute is the pain of a second Ashes defeat that Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, has declared himself amenable to the idea of a fifth tour of England in 2013. Ponting, who on Sunday became the first Australian captain since Billy Murdoch to twice lead Australia to Ashes series defeats in England, said the prospect of atoning for losses in 2005 and 2009 could convince him to return for one final campaign at the age of 38.
"We'll see how I'm going in four years," Ponting said. "Hopefully I'll have another chance to play another Ashes series back in Australia, but it would be nice, with everything I've done in my career and the games I've played, to have some good memories from this ground. I might have to come back next time and find some.
"With a loss, I'm more determined than ever to be a better player and leader than I am at the moment. I don't really know what to expect when I get back. Hopefully most of the questions will be from journalists, not from people above. But we'll see. I've felt I've given myself the best opportunity and done a good job as a captain and leader in this series. Leaders are always looked upon on their results on their team. Unfortunately for me and the rest of the guys we haven't got the results we would have liked. Ultimately it is my responsibility to get the best out of the guys and to win series. I felt I ticked most of those boxed, other than making a few more runs myself."
Ponting cut a forlorn figure at Sunday's post-match press conference, having watched his side squander a shot at a world record run-chase with two run-outs - one of which cost him his wicket - in the space of six deliveries. First innings collapses at Lord's, Edgbaston and The Oval, coupled with the failure to extract England's final wicket at Cardiff, contributed heavily to Australia's 2-1 series defeat; the same margin by which they lost in 2005.
Ponting said the sting of defeat at The Oval on Sunday was every bit as painful as that he felt at the same ground four years ago. "I don't think you can get any more disappointed than I am right now," he said. "Looking back at 2005, I was feeling exactly the same back then. We all spoke about it and built the series up so much...but we've come up short. I'm obviously hurting, the rest of the guys are hurting as well.
"For me, the leader, the captain, the most experienced player, it's difficult for me to accept. It's just as difficult for the rest of the guys. We couldn't have done anything else, we have given ourselves the best opportunity. Just a couple of really bad sessions during the course of five Tests have cost us the series. When we were been good we were exceptional, when we were bad we were very poor. We need to become more consistent in our performances across the board."
Australia have won just six of their past 16 Tests, during which they have suffered series defeats to India (away), South Africa (home) and now England. Sunday's loss at The Oval has ensured their Test ranking has plummeted from first to fourth, marking the first time since 2003 the Australians have not held the top spot.
Despite their slide, Ponting insisted his current squad should be persisted with for future series. "I think there are a lot of Test wins in this series of players," he said. "In a couple of years there are going to be a couple of guys coming in and going out with a couple of us getting a bit long in the tooth. They will win a lot of Test matches for Australia in the future. They will learn from their mistakes in this series."
Andrew Strauss, Ponting's conqueror in 2009, warned that Australia's youthful squad would learn from the Ashes defeat and emerge a motivated unit for the return clash in Australia next year.
"The fact that they didn't have the aura is because they have a lot of guys at the start of their career," Strauss said. "If you think about it logically, they're going to get better and better. Those guys are going to have experienced a huge amount in this series and they're probably going to be more determined and hungry to make sure it doesn't happen again. The last thing you'd ever say is that Australian cricket is in a bad place, because it's far from it. They will continue getting better over the coming years."