A BATTING WITH BIMAL BREAKING REPORT: Michael Clarke has been a great captain, admits Ricky Ponting

Ponting and Clarke are going to have to work together throughout the South Africa series

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has admitted that his successor Michael Clarke has done a great job in leading the country back to within touching distance of the number one Test team ranking.

Clarke’s dream to see Australia back as the number one Test team could become reality if his team beat South Africa in a three-Test series starting on November 9 in Brisbane.

Since handing over the captaincy 18 months ago, Ponting was hoping that Clarke would put his stamp of authority on the team, and he has done just that.

But, Clarke will be needing Ponting during the South Africa series since the veteran batsman has been in sublime form over the past couple of weeks in the domestic league.

Even though Ponting may have some lingering feelings of jealousy after being forced to hand over the captaincy to Clarke, he didn’t show it and instead praised his successor for all the work he has put in to helping Australia get closer to being the number one ranked Test team again.

“The thing I know about him, and it was similar to when I took over the captaincy as well, I think Michael’s been able to elevate his game to a different level, I think the way he played over the summer last year was very impressive, both one-day cricket and Test cricket. And when I took over the captaincy it was a bit of the same with me as well. Certain players respond to that responsibility a little bit better and make everybody feel and look very comfortable. As players and captains you’re always judged on records, and what Michael has done as a captain and a player so far has been of a very high quality,” Ponting said.

However, Ponting may also be a little envious of Clarke’s position as a selector since he now has the dual powers of leading the team and having a say of who makes the cut and who doesn’t.

Despite being ranked as low as fifth after the 2010-2011 Ashes thrashing, Clarke has kept a cool head and slowly led Australia back up to third in the rankings after posting series wins against Sri Lanka, India and the West Indies, along with two drawn series against South Africa and New Zealand.

“If you’re looking to lead an organisation or a team well, you want to have total responsibility for what’s going on, I never had that, but that’s something I’d always asked for and it’s good to see that’s the direction the game’s going because I think it’s the direction it had to go. I think there’s a lot of positive things that have happened around Australian cricket in the last 12 months. The way the selection thing is structured now with [the team performance manager] Pat Howard being involved, some really good and smart decisions are being made around giving players in our team the best chance possible,” Ponting added.

Ponting also knows that the national team should be solely focusing on winning this Test series and there will be no excuse if they fall short since they have been on an excellent run in the last year and a half.

“Absolutely, we don’t want to be taking any steps backwards, CA (Cricket Australia) are going to give us everything we want and everything we need to be the best team we can be, and as players now we have to, one, understand that, and two, win games of cricket. We’re international players being paid good money to win games of cricket, and that’s what we have to do,” Ponting said.

Ponting also mentioned that it was nice to have some time off and spend time with his family, while playing some domestic cricket as well.

“I couldn’t ask for anything better really than my lead-in, having a couple of months off after the Caribbean, then getting back in the gym and training hard for a couple of months before the Tassie pre-season stuff started. A couple of games under my belt now and Tassie’s got off to a pretty good start. I’ve a couple more Shield games to play yet and another couple of one-dayers, so there’ll be no excuses as far as I’m concerned about where my game will be by the time November comes around,” Ponting added.

Ponting stated that he was ready for the challenges that lay ahead, and hopes that the time he spent training and practising for the South Africa series will pay off.

“You’re definitely fresher but whether that means you’re better off cricket-wise is another thing. Something so foreign to me is not playing cricket continually, one thing I do know is I’ve now got Test cricket only and only a few one-day games for Tassie through the course of the year, so I’ve had a pretty clear picture of what my career looks like. That can’t hurt. Also having a good break and some sort of pre-season for the first time in 20 years is a little bit foreign as well, but it’s been very enjoyable,” Ponting said.

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