Ponting coy over Johnson omission

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Doug Bollinger, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ricky Ponting & Mitchell Johnson

Down and out: Mitchell Johnson, bottom, cuts a lonely figure as Ricky Ponting, right, chats with two of his probable pace attack

Ricky Ponting refused to reveal whether he agrees with the decision of Australia’s selectors to drop Mitchell Johnson for the second Ashes Test.

Ponting announced the left-arm paceman had been released from the 13-man squad for the Adelaide contest following his return of 0-170 in the drawn opener at Brisbane.

Doug Bollinger is the probable like-for-like replacement, with Ryan Harris - the second pace-bowling reinforcement called up - also in the reckoning, possibly at the expense of Ben Hilfenhaus.

In one breath, Ponting appeared to endorse the decision to give Johnson a break. Yet in his next, he left it open to question what his personal thoughts on the matter might be.

"The selectors felt he was down on a bit of form and down on a bit of rhythm," said Ponting.

"That was highlighted in the last game - and as we all know, the game of Test match cricket is hard enough as it is without having to try and find those things in the middle of a Test match.

"You just know if guys are in good touch or not, and we'll see that pretty clear with Mitchell when he comes back."

But asked to explain why bowlers often appear to be given fewer opportunities than batsmen to hang on to their place, he replied: "Good question, you'll have to ask (national selection panel chairman) Andrew Hilditch that."

Ponting also took the opportunity to explain the constitution of Australia's selection panel, and his apparent advisory role.

Ryan Harris

Ponting dismissed concerns about Ryan Harris' previously injured knee, stating it was not the reason he did not bowl today

"I'm not a selector," he said. "We have four selectors, and I'm not one - and nor is the coach.

"When it's big decisions like this, they are wholly and solely made by the selection panel.

"Of course, they ask for my input and that of the coach, but at the end of the day they make decisions. Sometimes it doesn't matter what I think."

Even so, Ponting duly explained the reasoning behind releasing Johnson.

"We wouldn't make changes if we didn't think it would make the attack better for this game," he added.

"We've got the best five bowlers we could possibly have to get 20 wickets in each game."

One of them may yet be Harris, whose knee injury - described last month by physio Alex Kountouris as "chronic" - is no longer a concern.

"We're not worried about Ryan's knee at all," said Ponting. "The reason he didn't bowl today was nothing to do with his knee. If we had any worries about him and his knee he wouldn't be in our squad.

"We've made one big decision to leave a guy out; we wouldn't be doing that if we were taking a risk on someone who's got an injury."

As for Johnson, it seems Ponting has spent at least some of his time this week putting a captain's arm round a potential match-winner - temporarily deemed surplus to requirements.

"I've been there a few times before myself, and there aren't many guys in the 11 who haven't experienced similar feelings that Mitch is feeling at the moment," he said.

Doug Bollinger

Left-arm seamer Doug Bollinger is almost certain to be a like-for-like replacement for Johnson in Australia's team

"He's obviously disappointed, but we'll let him get over his disappointment and work with him to get him back to his best.

"It is a great challenge and it shows what you're made of, how you accept it and get on with it. He's accepted it very, very well - and I'm sure you'll see him do what he needs to get back in the team as soon as possible."

Johnson, who also made a 19-ball duck and dropped an important catch in Brisbane, had a torrid time too in England during the 2009 Ashes.

"It's a hard world sometimes in international sport," added Ponting.

"Mitch has had his ups and downs on and off the field, and I've seen him get the better of a lot of those things he's had to face over the last couple of years."

The Australia captain also had a few words for the opposition, who failed to manage a par first-innings score and therefore put themselves under pressure for much of the opening Test.

"If that's one thing they are conscious of then good, because it's another thing for them to be thinking about tomorrow or Saturday," he said.

"But they played well in the second innings in Brisbane, and we have to make sure we don't give them the same opportunities."

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