Brisbane, Australia: Ricky Ponting's only concern about the overhaul of Australian cricket is that it didn't happen a decade ago.
A home Ashes series defeat to England last season forced a long-delayed national review of the sport, too late to prevent Australia from sliding to Number 5 in the test rankings after dominating the global cricket landscape for a decade.
Days away from the start of the new southern season, Ponting is no longer captain, the selection panel has been disbanded and South African Mickey Arthur has been appointed as the first foreign coach of the Australian team. Former rugby international Pat Howard will oversee the playing and coaching divisions in a new role as general manager of performance.
"It's terrific," Ponting told reporters Monday. "It's the way the game should have gone a long, long time ago.
"We've got quality people in and around the team and, even already now, we're starting to see just a slightly different feel and a few different results ... Australian cricket is definitely on the right track."
Ponting said former coach John Buchanan, who is now working with New Zealand Cricket, wanted to implement changes when he took over the team in 1999 but couldn't force major reforms when the team was at its heights.
Skipper Michael Clarke is now part of a five-person selection panel which also includes the coach — a situation Ponting favored when he took over from Steve Waugh as captain in 2004.
"It's a really good decision to go that way to make the captain and the coach both selectors," he said.
Ponting quit as captain after Australia's run of three consecutive World Cup titles ended in a quarterfinal loss to eventual champion India in March. He vowed to continue as a batsman in test cricket and is content to play under Clarke.
But at 36, and his form below his best, Ponting will be under pressure to retain his place after the two-test series against New Zealand, which starts Thursday at the Gabba ground in Brisbane.
Only a gritty half century in Australia's series-leveling second test win over South Africa last week and a string of injuries to other players diminished pressure from some critics for the 156-test veteran to retire. Ponting has rejected mounting speculation he planned to retire after the second test against New Zealand in Hobart, in his home state, next month.
"I honestly have not thought about retirement," he said. "I can't afford to think about it and when that time is going to be."
He said he'd learned from the retirements of other star players such as Adam Gilchrist that he'd know when the time was right to go.
"I'm a proud person as well and I want to make sure that I'm giving myself every chance to be a match-winning cricketer for Australia."
Clarke has backed Ponting's continued inclusion in the team, particularly in a time of rapid change. Five players have been ruled out of the first test against New Zealand due to injuries, leaving three untested fast bowlers in line for a debut.
As far as Clarke is aware, Ponting isn't even considering retirement just yet.
"In the conversations I've had with (Ponting), he hasn't mentioned retirement once," Clarke said. "To me, he's very keen to put his hand up in this test match and score some runs. Don't get me wrong, as captain of this team I'd love to see that, because generally when Ricky scores runs we win the test match.
"That's our priority, to do whatever we can to win this test."
New chief selector John Inverarity has discussed the need for young players to get international experience, but for that to be managed to avoid burn out and injuries. Clarke said with the influx of young players, it was important for balance to have the likes of Ponting and Mike Hussey in the squad.
"I don't think you can wipe the floor with a number and say if you're above this number you shouldn't be playing for Australia," Clarke said. "I don't think that's fair at all.
"It's about performance, it's about scoring runs or taking wickets and it's about the combination of youth and experience.
"We've got a good mix — we've got a lot of youth here at the moment, that's exciting for Australian cricket. Hopefully the experienced guys can lead from the front."
Updated Date: Nov 28, 2011 13:39:49 IST