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Laughter is best medicine - Ponting

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Brad Haddin, Michael Clarke, Steven Smith & Phillip Hughes

Ricky Ponting has appointed Steven Smith, centre, one of his funny men as Australia seek to level the series in Perth

Australia are under orders to laugh their way to a series-levelling victory over England in Perth.

Ricky Ponting thinks it is time his team put some fun back into their Ashes campaign, after their innings defeat in the second Test in Adelaide.

The captain will be leading by example too. He has nominated 21-year-old all-rounder Steven Smith as one of his funny men, and promises he will be doing all he can too to lighten the mood.

"We had a good chat after the game in Adelaide about what we're doing and where we're going," said Ponting.

"We thought we'd probably been talking a little bit too much and over-emphasising different things, so we're just going to try and relax a bit more and have a bit more fun around our training and preparation.

"We're hoping they'll go out and play with a bit more freedom."

Ponting reached the conclusion that there were too many straight faces, and too much theorising, in the first two Tests.

If it was not quite paralysis by analysis in Adelaide, the outcome was clearly far from what Australia had hoped - and the remedy, it seems, is laughter.

"I think we probably just held ourselves back a little bit with trying a bit too hard at different times. We've tried to lighten the mood,” added Ponting.

"I always like to have a bit of fun and make training as much fun as it can be.

"If I say something I have to make sure I'm leading by what I'm saying.


Ponting, bottom, said: "I always like to have a bit of fun and make training as much fun as it can be"

"It's no good me saying 'we're going to have some fun this week' and then putting a serious face on. That's what being a leader is all about.

"If I'm talking about having fun, then I've got to be the first one out there having fun."

From now on, there will be a little less in-depth discussion about techniques - and more jokes - in the Australia dressing room.

"It wasn't as if we'd been over-analysing or talking too much before the series," added Ponting.

"It's probably just been through different moments of the game and after the day's play, we'd probably been looking at the areas we need to improve on.

"Perhaps we were trying to talk too much and trying to get the guys to try too hard.

"It was just another Test series, but I think the fact that we haven't been playing as well as we would have liked after the first couple of days in Brisbane means we probably talked a bit too much."

The selectors have played their part in trying to alter the atmosphere too, with a much-changed line-up expected at the WACA.

Smith has played just two Tests; opener Phil Hughes is back after a nine-month absence, and - most notably of all - slow left-armer Michael Beer could make his debut, having made only six previous first-class appearances.

Ponting acknowledges the challenge of integrating one completely new face, and some others far from entirely familiar, into the team environment.

He met Beer for the first time yesterday, and has precious little time to get to know him and his bowling style.

"It can be difficult, I guess," he said. "It's about me learning as much as I can over the next few days - but he's a real good character actually.

Mitchell Johnson

Ponting expressed confidence in Mitchell Johnson. "When he's at his best, he's a wicket-taking bowler," the captain insisted

"He'll enjoy the challenge - and what I've seen from him so far is that he's a good, young bloke looking to learn."

Ponting knows a lot more about Mitchell Johnson, who is primed to return on what is now his home patch - having been left out for the second Test after a woeful performance in the series opener at his former home - Brisbane.

"A lot of the work he's done and a lot of the analysis of his own action is starting to hit home with him," Ponting said of the left-arm fast bowler.

"When you start to see him swinging the ball again it's always a good sign.

"I know he swung the ball a lot in the nets, and the breeze wasn't favourable for that at all - so that's a really good sign for this match."

Asked whether England will be wary of a revitalised Johnson, Ponting replied: "They should be.

"When he's at his best, he's a wicket-taking bowler and can be pretty handy with the bat.

"We need to have him back at his absolute best and bowling at his best to win two of the next three."

Ponting senses too that England, who have an unenviable record at this venue, may be vulnerable again - on a pitch he likens to Johannesburg, where Andrew Strauss' team lost by an innings at the start of this year.

"When it is at it's fastest and bounciest, this wicket is so much different to anywhere else in the world,” he observed.

"Probably the only other wicket like it is the Wanderers.

"I've had a look at some of the footage from the game there last year, with the use of the short ball more than anything in that game.

"(Morne) Morkel and (Dale) Steyn used it particularly well."

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