Ponting focused on here and now
Ricky Ponting may be about to play his last Test against England in this country - but the Australia captain has more important things to think about.
Thirty-four-year-old Ponting is hoping to be in situ for several years yet but knows there will be no sweeter experiences ahead than if he can help to keep the Ashes in Australia’s possession.
To do so, he need only lead his country to a draw in the npower Test series decider, starting at the Brit Oval this morning.
Victory would bring with it handy bonuses of a 2-1 series success and continued occupation of the number one ranking position in Test cricket.
All of the above appear to be higher up Ponting’s list of priorities than whether his experiences here will be his final ones on an Ashes tour.
“I haven’t really thought about whether this is my last Test or not,” he insists.
“I’m just making sure I’ve got my own game in good order. That is really important, as the number three.”
Ponting is hoping to return to England next summer for Tests against Pakistan - and is getting much satisfaction from his part in trying to keep Australia at the top of the world, following a raft of retirements from a generation of all-time great players.
“I’m really enjoying cricket at the moment - and I’ve never put a time frame on when I’m thinking about finishing my international career,” he points out.
“I’ve really enjoyed the last 12 or 18 months, working with a fresher bunch of guys.
“That’s been one of the big challenges of my career, and we’ve had some good successes along the way.”
Ashes retention for Australia will be a world away from Ponting’s last Test experience of the Oval - where his country lost the urn for the first time in 18 years, back in 2005.
Unsurprisingly, he is not dwelling on the past.
“I haven’t tried to compare this week to that week,” he said.
“I can’t really remember that far back - it’s a long time ago.”
More recent results are more encouraging for Australia - specifically their innings-and-80-run win in the fourth Test.
Ponting knows a similar performance will ensure Australian smiles stay broad. But he is wary too of harking back to Leeds, at the expense of lost focus in London.
“We feel things are going really well for us,” he said.
“But it’s also important we put Leeds behind us and focus on what we need to do to play well here.
“We can’t just expect that things will flow on from there.
“The outstanding thing from Leeds was that, right from the start of that game, we were really switched on and were sharp with everything we did.
“We need to do that all over again.”
Ponting’s other balancing act is to keep inevitable excitement in his team at workable levels.
“I don’t want to try to stop the great excitement that there is around, but we have to be really careful we don’t get too involved in how big a week it is,” he reasons.
“What we have done this summer, particularly with a lot of younger guys, is just let them get stuck into their work without burdening them with extra things to think about.
“The important thing for the young guys going into this game is that they trust what they’ve been doing and trust themselves.”