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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Team-mates back Ponting on captaincy

 Ricky Ponting's team-mates have leapt to his defence amid reports he could be stripped of the captaincy ahead of next month's one-day series in Bangladesh. The Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday claimed that Cricket Australia would discuss Ponting's future as leader of the side, even if the selectors named him captain for the Bangladesh series.

The paper quoted an unnamed Cricket Australia official as saying that the time was approaching to look to the future, and that "we're waiting for the next thing to blow up". Over the past month, Ponting has created headlines for damaging a TV set in the dressing room, showing his anger at Steven Smith when they collided while going for a catch and for not walking when he got a thick edge to the wicketkeeper against Pakistan. (Also read: Ponting denies retirement reports)

Perhaps more importantly, Ponting has also been struggling for runs and Australia need him to fire during their quarter-final against India in Ahmedabad on Thursday. Michael Hussey said the team was right behind the captain, and that Ponting had not been any different in his approach over the past few weeks.

"Ricky's got our 100% support," Hussey said. "He's such a class player. It's amazing, it seems like he's been copping criticism over very minor things. Things have been blown way out of proportion from our point of view.

"I've been watching Ricky in the nets and the way he has been preparing. It's just amazing sometimes how champions just rise to the occasion at the right time. Against India on Thursday in the World Cup is one of those times where I think we'll see the best of Ricky Ponting."

Ponting is searching for his fourth World Cup title and although he has signalled his intentions to play on in the limited-overs format, at 36 his long-term future in the one-day game must be in doubt. Mitchell Johnson said Ponting had retained his focus ahead of the India clash, in which a loss would mean the end of Australia's 12-year hold on the World Cup.

"He's a very important player in this tournament. He's been in a few World Cups now, so to have his experience is vital for us and he's a guy we all look up to," Johnson said. "He's copped a fair bit [of criticism] lately and he's dealing with it in his own way.

"He has got the experience needed to be able to deal with it. I don't think he's thinking about it too much, he's just worried about this next game. The guys are there to support him, everyone needs support at times and he is getting it from everyone. He is a tough character but he enjoys that support."

Ponting hasn't made an international hundred in 13 months, and his best score at this World Cup has been 36 - against Kenya in Bangalore last week. He has given no signal that he intends to retire in the near future, and last week said that he would be playing in the Bangladesh series, which begins on April 9.
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