Ponting takes a punt on Doherty
Ricky Ponting is optimistic of a successful outcome if he unleashes left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty in the opening Ashes Test at the Gabba.
Doherty impressed Ponting in his first two Australia appearances - during last month’s one-day series against Sri Lanka - and appears to be in line for a Test debut on Thursday.
Doherty, who turned 28 today, has a very modest first-class bowling average of 48.26, but he made an instant impact in his two ODIs, including with four wickets on debut.
“Seeing him up close for those couple of games gave me more of an idea of how good he was,” Ponting said. “He was pretty impressive in both games in conditions that were very conducive to seam.
“He is a good, solid character as well and he’ll handle the situation pretty well. He handled his first one-day game at the MCG particularly well - and he’ll be able to handle whatever the English batters try to throw at him.”
It is becoming increasingly doubtful whether Ponting’s vice-captain, Michael Clarke, will take the field this week, as he tries to recover from a back injury.
Speaking before the selectors decided to call up Usman Khawaja as cover for Clarke, Ponting said: “He’s been in this situation a few times the last couple of years.
“He’s had niggles but been able to come back most times. (Physio) Alex (Kountouris) has made it clear he wants him to bat tomorrow and Wednesday.
“If he doesn’t bat tomorrow it’d be hard for him to be considered for the game.”
Ponting also respects this winter’s Ashes opposition, and has singled out off-spinner Graeme Swann for significant praise.
“They’re a good unit. They seem to work pretty well together,” he said. “Swann’s been a revelation the last couple of years.
“He’s almost taking a bit of the role (Andrew) Flintoff used to play. Whenever they need a breakthrough or a wicket, more often than not he’s been able to come up with a wicket in his first couple of overs. He’s been their go-to man.”
Ponting has already lost the Ashes twice as captain, in England in 2005 and 2009.
It would be harsh if he entered the history books as the man who led Australia to three Ashes defeats, but he does not appear to be consumed by fear of that possibility.
“If it is how I’m remembered, so be it,” he said. “There’s not much more I can do.
“I’ll do everything I can to play well and give the team the best chance to win. That’s all I can do and all I’ve ever been able to do.”