Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here
Australia coach Mickey Arthur has said Ricky Ponting is "not going anywhere" and remains firmly in Australia's plans for the next Ashes tour of England in just over a year's time. Arthur has returned to Australia after Michael Clarke's men completed a 2-0 Test series win over West Indies, a series in which Ponting made starts and finished with a half-century but was the least prolific scorer of Australia's top seven.
However, Ponting was coming off an outstanding home series against India, in which his 544 runs at 108.80 was second only to Clarke. As a Test-only player, Ponting now has no cricket on his schedule until the domestic summer begins in October, and he must then find his form ahead of home campaigns against South Africa and Sri Lanka ahead of the 2013 Ashes.
"I know there was a lot of media pressure and talk around Ricky [in the West Indies], but Ricky's not going anywhere," Arthur told reporters in Perth on Tuesday. "We hope Ricky's scoring enough runs to go to the Ashes, most certainly, in England. Ricky's still got a lot of Test runs still in him, there's no doubt about that.
"I thought Ricky was very unlucky [in the Caribbean]. He was always bubbling away. His form was always good, so no worries about Ricky Ponting at all. Ricky is definitely no way considering retiring, I wouldn't have thought from my conversations with him and he'll be fit and ready to go against South Africa ... I think if we win the Ashes, then maybe he'll go out on the top of his game."
While Ponting has a decade and a half's worth of Test cricket experience to call on, a less experienced pair will also be aiming to regain their best touch at the start of the home summer. The openers David Warner and Ed Cowan were Australia's fifth and sixth best scorers in the West Indies and each managed only one half-century, but Arthur believes they are on the improve.
"I think Warner and Cowan will get better and better," Arthur said. "Ed Cowan came on through the summer ... he got better and better at playing spin bowling. We want Dave to get more consistent but it's not his style. We certainly don't want Dave to lose his character, because that's what made him special."
Some of the Australians have headed to India to take part in the remainder of the IPL and the limited-overs players have series against England and Pakistan during the off season, followed by the ICC World Twenty20. For others like Ponting and Cowan, a long winter at home has just begun.