Sydney: Oct 28, 2012
“My motivation to play has always been the same thing. I've wanted to be a successful part of a very successful team and that's really what keeps me motivated now. I've always enjoyed working with the younger guys as well.
"I think I've got a lot to offer them and help them to develop that little bit quicker than they would playing with guys of the same age so that's a big part of my role in the team now, almost as a mentor to some of the younger guys.
"Certainly in a batting role anyway. But it's just the thrill of the contest. That, for me, has never diminished, and it probably won't even once I have retired from the game. That challenge of batsman versus bowler is still as exciting for me as ever. Every net session I have it's that way and every time I go out in the middle it's that way, so that's what keeps me going,” he said.
The senior Australian cricketer claimed that he has had a good build up for an important series against South Africa, after missing international cricket for many months.
He said, “I couldn't ask for any more really with my whole preparation, pretty much from the end of the West Indies tour. I had a couple of months off where I sort of gave my body and mind a bit of a chance to settle down after a pretty tough summer.
"I had a couple of months away from cricket, got back to the gym, started working hard on getting fit, getting strong and then a pre-season with the Tassie boys, three Shield games now under my belt and one more to go next week down in Hobart so the preparation for me will be pretty much spot on from the start of the summer.”
Ponting acknowledged to former Australian captain Ian Chappell that South Africa series will be a real test for the Australians.
“Yeah, you look at their side and they've probably got the best bowling attack in the world and arguably the best batting line up as well now with Mark Boucher, going out of their side as good a player as he was and as good a keeper as he was, with De Villiers taking the gloves they can afford to play a specialist batsman at number seven and we know how good Steyn, Philander and Morkel have been for them over three years and they've got the class all rounder in Kallis so they've got most bases covered there.
“But I guess for us if we want to get back to the number 1 team in the world we've got to beat the best and at the moment. They're the best and we'll see how we go against them over the coming weeks,” he said.
The right-handed batsman said Australia will need to be consistently good for winning against the top ranked side.
“We just have to have more outstanding players, more of an even contribution than they do throughout the series. I don't think you can look at a particular aspect of either team's game and say that's where it will be won or lost,” he was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
“Our batsmen have to make a lot of runs, our bowlers have to bowl exceptionally well and be very disciplined. I think what made the Australian team stand out is that we did the basic things very well for a long time and I think if we can do that this series, we'll be right,” he added.
Talking about his captaincy, Ponting said it was the right time for him to step down and give the right guy the opportunity.
“I thought long and hard about the decision I made about stepping down from the captaincy. I just felt it was the right time in terms of what we had coming up, as far as this series is concerned, as far as the India series next year and then the Ashes soon after, I wanted to make sure that the next guy coming in had the appropriate amount of time to be well ready and have plenty of experience under his belt for those big series so it was the hardest decision I've ever had to make as a cricketer, to step down from the captaincy because it's something that I loved and something that I cherished every moment of. But the timing was right for me and Mike has stepped up and elevated his own game which is a good sign for us,” he said.
Ponting said the difficult time period as a cricketer came sometime ago, and he can no more afford to be in the same zone.
“I was probably as low as I've been in a long time 12 or 18 months ago. It was getting to the stage where unless I could play as well as I could I wouldn't be around any more. But I knew there were signs there for me all the time,” he said.
“I was getting enough out of my training and my preparation to know that it was only a matter of time before it came back. I know I can't afford to have another lean trot like I did back then, because then it will be time to walk away. But I wanted to finish my career on the right note and we’ll see where that is in the future,” he added.
Ponting said he will continue till the time he feels it’s right, and will not wait for selectors’ mercy.
“I don't think it would get to that. I'm a realist and I'll understand that if there's players out there who can play the game better than me, I'll be the first to accept it and walk away. I'm not going to let it get to the stage where the selectors drop me. I think I'll identify the right time.
“Everyone I've spoken to that's retired have said they've felt when it's the right time, when they can't find it in themselves to elevate their game. I haven't felt that yet at all so I know it's not the right time. I'm just going to prepare for the Brisbane test match, hopefully get a few there and see what happens,” he added.
However, the former skipper acknowledged that the tour of South Africa in 2011 was a tough one.
“I think through the middle of that South African series over there. I got out a few times the same way in a row and no matter what I did I couldn't seem to get my bat out of the way. So that was hard and there was speculation around then. Should he be playing? Is he too old? Can he get back to playing the way I know he can play?”
He added, “As much as I kept telling people and myself I could do it, no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't get the results I was after so I was happy with the way the Australian summer finished, to get the monkey off my back with the hundred in Sydney and back it up with a 200 in Adelaide the next week. That was good signs for me that the hard work was starting to pay off. I just have to be a consistent run scorer and work from there,” he said.
Talking about life after giving up captaincy job, Ponting said he still thinks about the game as a leader.
“It hasn't been hard at all. As just a player that can turn up and train and help out other guys rather than having as much on your plate as you do as a captain, I think actually makes the game a little bit easier. I still think about the game as I would as a captain. When I'm out on the field and I'm standing around, I'm always thinking about what I would do as a captain.
“But as far as things that you've got to do with media and picking teams and thinking about playing conditions and all of that stuff, it's easier not to have to worry about that stuff now. The transition has been fine. When I stood down and Michael took the captaincy, I said I'm used to being told what to do anyway,” he said.
Ponting said Australia needs to find talent in the batting department, as there are many good bowlers coming through.
“In the last couple of years having the chance to go back to state cricket and see some of the talent coming through, I think there is some young talent coming through. But it probably isn't on the batting side of things as bright as Australian cricket would like to be at the moment. I think in the fast bowling side of things seems to be in the best shape I can remember. And I think the challenge for Australian cricket now is bringing some of the 17, 18 and 19-year-old kids into the system and getting a couple of years in under the belt and hopefully into Australian colours,” he said.
He added, “I think there's probably a few deficiencies. Kids now are brought up playing the shorter forms of the game, more so than ever. The technique side of things that you learnt, and I learnt as kids is probably not there as much anymore - the ability of guys to bat out a day, or in tough conditions against good bowling.
“For a young kid, that's probably not part of the cricket mindset any more. So I think that might be a part of the reason. There's some challenges there as far as developmental coaching is concerned and making sure we identify the kids with good technique, and teaching good technique and focussing on the long form of cricket when they're younger, to keep developing good Test players,” he expressed.
When asked about his greatest satisfaction so far as an Australian cricketer, Ponting said, “I think the greatest satisfaction I've had as a captain anyway was walking off the field in South Africa a few years ago. We brought a really young team over there. We had Phil Hughes making his debut over there. We had guys like Andrew McDonald, Marcus North, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus. All those guys basically on their first away tour.”
“We were playing South Africa in their back yard, I think they were the number one ranked team at the time. They'd just beaten us in Australia and everyone expected us to be rolled over there. We won the first two Tests really well. I remember walking off the field in Durban and I remember thinking, I'm just going to walk 10 or 15 metres ahead of the boys, I'm going to stand on the boundary and look at the faces on the way off. You had guys like Hughes and McDonald with their arms around each other.
“And North and Hilfenhaus and Siddle, smiles on their faces that you just couldn't believe and you couldn't imagine. For me as captain seeing the joy they got out of winning a test series like that, was probably my proudest moment,” he said.
Talking about his biggest disappointment, Ponting said, “Losing Ashes series as a captain, that's been the biggest disappointment. And probably the '05 Ashes series was my biggest letdown. We went over there with an excellent team and were just outplayed by an emerging English team at the time.
“We redeemed ourselves and bounced back strongly in Australia in '06/07 and whitewashed that series. That was also some of the most satisfaction I've had. But I think any time you lose an Ashes series, especially with the hype and build-up surrounding it and the pride we have as Australians playing against England, that's always hard to take,” he said.
The senior cricketer said being an angry young man was not bringing best out of him.
“Probably just the realisation that being an angry young man, I wasn't going to get the best out of myself as a player and a person. That's probably one thing that I would change through my life and through my cricket, just the way that I was as a young bloke. I was always fiercely determined and driven to succeed.
“As a young bloke it had a bit to do with that. Looking back now, that probably motivated me then. I was using that to my advantage back then, but now I'm a bit calmer and probably have a bit more respect for everything that's going on around me than I did as a young bloke,” he said.
Ponting said he would like to be associated with the game after his retirement.
“I want to be a dad, first and foremost. I want to be a good father. I've spent so much of my life on the move and travelling around the world that just to set up a home for my family and be a good dad is something that motivates me. I'll stay involved in the game somehow. I love the game too much not to. But just to be a dad for a little while will be something that I'll enjoy,” he concluded.