The Ashes: Ricky Ponting equivocal over Ashes axe for Mitchell Johnson

Ricky Ponting had to deploy a new attack against England in the second Ashes Test, which started this morning, whether he wanted it that way or not.

The Australia captain was notably equivocal about the decision to drop Mitchell Johnson with Doug Bollinger the likely replacement. And he made it clear that he is not part of the selection process.

In one breath, Ponting appeared to endorse the decision to give Johnson a break after his match figures of none for 170 at the Gabba.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Yet in his next, he left it open to question what his personal thoughts on the matter might be.

"The selectors felt he was down on a bit of form and down on a bit of rhythm," said Ponting, after confirming yesterday that Johnson was being released from Australia's 13-man squad.

"That was highlighted in the last game - and as we all know, the game of Test match cricket is hard enough as it is without having to try and find those things in the middle of a Test match.

"You just know if guys are in good touch or not, and we'll see that pretty clear with Mitchell when he comes back."

But asked to explain why bowlers often appear to be given fewer opportunities than batsmen to hang on to their place, he replied: "Good question, you'll have to ask (national selection panel chairman] Andrew Hilditch that."

Ponting also took the opportunity to explain the constitution of Australia's selection panel, and his apparent advisory role. "I'm not a selector," he said. "We have four selectors and I'm not one - and nor is the coach. When it's big decisions like this, they are wholly and solely made by the selection panel. Of course, they ask for my input and that of the coach, but at the end of the day they make decisions.

Sometimes it doesn't matter what I think."

As for Johnson, it seems Ponting has spent at least some of his time this week putting a captain's arm round a potential match-winner - temporarily deemed surplus to requirements.

"I've been there a few times before myself, and there aren't many guys in the 11 who haven't experienced similar feelings that Mitch is feeling at the moment," Ponting said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"He's obviously disappointed, but we'll let him get over his disappointment and work with him to get him back to his best.England skipper Andrew Strauss was aware that whoever was in the Australian side would provide a stiff test for his side.

He said: "I think we've got to be just slightly wary of the guys they've got in their squad.

"They're good performers, who've had a lot of success in Test cricket.

"We've got to be good enough to contend with them."

But he added that changing the side was not necessarily a positive for the hosts.

He said: "My experience, in playing international cricket, is that lack of stability is not a good thing - when you're not sure what your best XI is.

"That means people are generally a bit concerned about their place in the side. In that sense, that's a good thing for us."