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Ponting unfussed by captaincy debate

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Ricky Ponting & Michael Clarke

Ricky Ponting, left, said the future of the captaincy, perhaps destined for Michael Clarke, is "completely out of my hands"

Ricky Ponting knows he may be playing for his future as Australia's Test captain over the next five days in Perth.

The stakes could be no higher for the hosts, 1-0 down and one more defeat away from seeing England retain the Ashes with two matches still to play.

Ponting, who will be 36 on Sunday, has already lost the Ashes twice as captain in England but regained them too with a 5-0 whitewash at home four years ago.

He insists he has spent little time thinking about the fragility or otherwise of his tenure as captain.

But he said: "It's a decision that's completely out of my hands.

"I'll do my best as a player to make sure I score runs, and lead the team in the best way possible - and the powers-that-be will make those decisions, I guess at the end of the series or after this Test match, whenever that may be."

Ponting can help himself and his team by returning to form with the bat at number three, having made only nine runs in two innings - including a first-ball duck - in the innings defeat in the second Test in Adelaide.

"We're all just focused on this game. It's no good looking further ahead, and we can't afford to look further ahead," he added.

"We know we've been deficient in some areas in the first couple of games - and if we improve on those we have a great chance of winning.

"I know a lot of our success revolves around how well our batting does at the top of the order, and so far my input in the series has not been what it's needed to be for us to win games.

"Purely and simply, I need to stand up; I need to score runs, and we need to play better cricket than we have in the last two Tests."

James Anderson

Ponting sees a "great opportunity" against James Anderson, who has made two round-the-world journeys in the last week

Ponting senses nonetheless that England may be vulnerable at this venue, where they have always had a conspicuous lack of success.

In particular, he appears to doubt whether the tourists' fast bowler James Anderson can be at his best after travelling round the world twice in a week to be at the birth of his daughter - and arriving back in Perth less than three days before start of play at the WACA.

"I think there's a great opportunity for us here," he said.

"Anderson - much as he's talking it up, not really worrying - we've all done those flights in the past, and it takes a couple of days to get over them.

"I honestly feel that the pitch conditions here are as foreign to English players as probably anywhere else in the world, and I hope we can exploit that this week."

Before then, though, Australia must decide on the make-up of their bowling attack.

Like his opposite number Andrew Strauss, Ponting is leaving it late to pick - in his case - between an all-pace battery and a debut for rookie left-arm spinner Michael Beer.

"We haven't got a team yet," said Ponting. "We've had a good look at the wicket this afternoon.

"It's changed a little bit since we've been here today so we want to just want to have a look at it again tomorrow before we finalise what our XI will be."

"(It's) still particularly grassy and I've had a good chat to (curator) Cameron (Sutherland) today about the wicket.

Michael Beer

Ponting revealed if Michael Beer is "in our four best bowlers for what wicket we see tomorrow morning, then he'll play"

"It's different grass than there's been on the wicket before, so we've got a lot of things that we've got to think about yet before we finalise it.

"Looking at the wicket you'd think there's going to be a result in this game, so obviously that has to be a positive one for us or it's game, set and match."

The altered character of a pitch renowned for its pace and bounce has left both captains in a quandary.

"With a bit of grass in the wicket, there is every chance that the ball will stay newer for longer than it does in most other places - so you'd think it would swing a fair bit more," Ponting reasoned.

"So you'd think it's going to swing a bit more, so we've got the bases covered there with (Ryan) Harris and (Ben) Hilfenhaus being good swing bowlers.

"It's not the thicker sort of coarse grass that was on the wicket here the last couple of years - it's sort of a finer leaf grass.

"When you've got wickets like that, the ball tends to skip off that grass a bit more rather than holding as much, so that's why it's important to actually get a good feel of it tomorrow morning and just see how hard it is on the surface."

"(Selection) is just about what we think is going to be the best four bowlers for us on that wicket - it's as simple as that.

"The fact that Michael's a debutant and whatever, it doesn't come into it. If he's in our four best bowlers for what wicket we see tomorrow morning, then he'll play."

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