Mitchell Johnson has won the backing of his captain Ricky Ponting for an extended run in the Test team despite a disappointing tour of the Caribbean. Johnson was generally wayward in all three Tests and too often relieved the pressure on the batsmen that had been built up by Brett Lee and Stuart Clark, but Ponting said it was unfair to judge him on one series.
"There are a few others on this tour and others in the wings," Ponting told the Courier-Mail. "No doubt in the next couple of months you will see some of those guys play in some one-dayers or in Tests if there are injuries, but right at the moment I am pretty comfortable with the attack that we have got."
Ashley Noffke and Doug Bollinger were the two backup fast bowlers on the Test tour but neither was required for anything more than carrying the drinks. Shaun Tait is also likely to return to first-class cricket at the start of Australia's home season and Johnson will need to improve his results in order to stay ahead of the pack.
In the West Indies he failed to swing the ball in to the right-handers, relying entirely on pushing it across, and when the pitch did not offer speed and bounce he was barely threatening. He turned things around slightly with a career-best 4 for 41 in Barbados, although those wickets came mostly in the lower order, and he finished his first Test series on foreign soil with ten wickets at 34.70.
"Mitch is still a work in progress," Ponting said. "He has got everything there to become a very, very good Test bowler, with his pace and being left-arm and his ability to swing the ball. We just need to keep aiding him along a little bit, helping him out."
While Johnson's form was a slight concern for Australia, the left-arm wrist-spinner Beau Casson impressed Ponting on debut as Australia searched for their next long-term Test slow bowler. Casson picked up three wickets in the second innings in Barbados, including the dangerous Xavier Marshall and Dwayne Bravo, and Ponting said Casson had clearly improved after showing some nerves in the first innings.
"The way he handled himself throughout the game was terrific," Ponting said. "He kept changing things up. He never let the batsmen get too settled. He changed over and around the wicket, he changed his fields all the time.
"His second innings bowling was a terrific return for someone playing their first game. What you want from your spinner on day five is to get you those crucial breakthroughs, and he got those for us. That was a top debut for him."
Despite the challenges of overseeing a less experienced side than usual, Ponting said he was enjoying being able to help the younger players develop. It is a process that will continue when Australia play their next Test, in India in October.
"I said when some of the senior guys moved on that it was going to be one of the more exciting periods in my career to have some fresher faces around the team," Ponting said. "I enjoy having some guys who have made their debuts and some guys who have played just a handful of Tests in the side because I feel I've got a lot that I can offer to those guys."