Nielsen expects Ponting to fight back
Ricky Ponting has no intention of relinquishing the Australia captaincy and has the backing of coach Tim Nielsen.
Ponting will miss the final Ashes Test in Sydney with a broken finger after England retained the urn with a resounding innings victory in Melbourne, adding fuel to growing speculation that his time in charge of Australia has come to an end.
Michael Clarke has been named as captain in his place, but the 36-year-old Ponting intends to ensure that is only a temporary measure.
Ponting has the backing of Australia coach Nielsen who, when asked if the batsman had captained his last match, said: “I wouldn't have thought so.
"He'll miss this Test match through injury and Michael has been named as his replacement while his finger recovers. I still think there's plenty of kick in the old dog yet, so to speak.
"Ricky, as he's the first to admit, hasn't had the best series but he's been a tremendous leader for us and still is.
“I expect once his finger's right and he's back playing cricket I expect he'll assume the leadership role again."
Ponting played through the injury in the fourth Test at the MCG, but further x-rays have now shown he may need surgery, which could cut into his preparations for the World Cup.
"I had a good chat with him last night,” Nielsen added.
“His finger was still really sore. It was a really difficult decision for him [to withdraw] because he didn't want to be seen to be or feel like he was leaving his mates behind.
“That's the style of man he is. Ultimately, it's just a situation where the finger won't allow him to perform at this best...it's hard enough to perform at your best under the pressure we've been under in the past four or five weeks without having injuries to compromise that also.
"With a look to what we have coming up, more problems with the finger could have meant a much longer-term concern. I think, with the medical staff, he's made a very prudent decision with an eye to playing some good cricket for Australia again as soon as he can."
Pakistan-born batsman Usman Khawaja has come into the 12-man squad in place of Ponting, and Nielsen has challenged the 24-year-old to show he can be Ponting’s long-term replacement when the captain eventually does retire.
"Ricky Ponting isn't going to play for Australia forever,” Nielsen said. “Someone's got to bat a number three after him and they're always going to feel a little bit of pressure stepping into his shoes.
“There's always going to be comparisons made and whoever does that will have big shoes to fill. But Usman has been, if not the best, in the top couple of domestic players over the past couple of years.
“Technically he's very sound and mentally he's strong and looking forward to the opportunity. I think he'll do a good job."
Ponting was adamant that he would return to lead his country sooner rather than later.
"It’s not in my thinking at all," Ponting said, when asked if he may have played his last Test match.
"I want to keep playing, I've made that pretty clear not only this week but right through the summer.
"I think I've got a lot to offer as a player and as the captain of the Australian team and I want to continue to do that, so unfortunately I can't play this week, it's probably going to mean I'm going to miss the one-dayers in Australia as well.
"But with a World Cup around the corner I want to be the best player and leader I can through that tournament and to hopefully win our fourth consecutive World Cup would be great.
"And I want to play Test cricket post-World Cup as well, so that's what's in the future for me."
Should Khawaja impress, he may secure the number three position and force Ponting to move down the order on his return, something the latter acknowledges, albeit reluctantly.
"I always enjoy batting higher in the order,” Ponting said. “When I first came into the side batting at number six I found it a bit more difficult. I was much more comfortable batting up the order at three and I think I've had a reasonable career at three.
"If it's best for the team for me to stay at number three I'll continue to do that. If I think it better for the team to move down the order then I'll think about that as well."