Unhappy homecoming for Ponting
Ricky Ponting is already bracing himself for the reaction of the Australian public when he returns home without the Ashes.
Ponting is set to leave the tour, as planned, to spend some time Down Under while the remainder of his team prepare for the start of the limited-overs leg.
He will miss both Twenty20 internationals against England but is set to return for for the closing stages of the seven-match NatWest Series.
But before then, Ponting knows he will have some explaining to do for the many supporters who - like him - must try to come to terms with the 197-run defeat at the Brit Oval which yesterday gave England a 2-1 series success and saw Australia drop to fourth in the International Cricket Council world rankings.
Asked how he expects to be received on his return, he said: “I’ll find out in a day and a half when I get off the plane.
“I’ll be answering some questions. You always do when you lose a game or a series like this. It’s part of the job, what leaders are expected to do.”
Ponting insists, however, the soul-searching will never involve any crisis of confidence in his own ability, hinting too that he may yet end up back in England in four years’ time to see if he can make it third time lucky, having also lost the Ashes for the first time in a generation in 2005.
“I’ve never doubted myself on anything I’ve ever done when I’ve had the baggy green cap on,” he said. “I always get out there and accept challenges the best that I can.”
Despite the passing encouragement of a 127-run third-wicket stand with Michael Hussey, who made a magnificent 121, Ponting and company were bowled out for 348 on the fourth evening - in vain pursuit of a record 546 to win.
Ponting hardly lacked for want of determination. “I wanted to make a hundred, to be the last man out,” he said. “I couldn’t do that. As a leader and a captain, I wanted to do as well as I possibly could - be the captain that won here.
“But I haven’t been able to do that either. I’m disappointed with my own performances, and the other guys are as well.”
And Ponting has no doubt that his side have it in them to bounce back, claiming he was proud of his charges.
“I’m comfortable with where we are at. We’ve been rebuilding for 12 to 18 months,” he said. “These are guys who have a few Tests under their belts and are still learning about the game.
They all should be a lot better off for being part of this series. We’re definitely heading in the right direction, and I’m really proud of the guys.”
As for himself, Ponting will simply aspire to even higher standards. “With a loss, I’m more determined than ever to be a better player and leader than I am at the moment,” he said.
Asked whether he is hoping to take on England in the Ashes again, the 34-year-old vowed: “Certainly. We’ll see how I’m going in four years. I hope I have another chance to play another Ashes series back in Australia.
“But it would be nice, with everything I’ve done in my career and the games I’ve played, to have some good memories from this ground. I might have to come back next time and find some.”