England cannot avoid talking about Ashes, feels Ricky Ponting

Ricky Ponting announced his retirement from Test cricket in Perth, on November 29, 2012 © Getty Images

London: May 30, 2013

Ricky Ponting has said England despite their best efforts could not avoid talking about the upcoming Ashes series with Australia.

The mantra from everyone within the England camp, from captain Alastair Cook down, has been that the side, who completed a 2-0 Test series whitewash of New Zealand in Leeds on Tuesday and face the Black Caps in the first of three one-dayers at Lord’s on Friday, are concentrating on the “here and now”.

Prior to the Ashes, England and Australia will both be involved in next month’s Champions Trophy one-day tournament.

But former Australia captain Ponting, in England to play for county side Surrey, said there was no avoiding the ‘A-word’ such is the prestige attached by both countries to cricket’s oldest Test contest.

“You can guarantee at different times they’ll have conversations about it,” Ponting, set to miss his first Ashes since 1997 after retiring from international cricket six months ago, said Wednesday.

“It’s inevitable it’s going to come up. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it,” said Ponting, who fully expects Australia captain Michael Clarke and coach Mickey Arthur to discuss the Ashes well in advance of the first Test against England at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge ground in July.

“When you turn up to play a Champions Trophy game, the last thing on your mind is what’s going to happen in the Ashes,” he said.

“The Australian team will be saying the same thing — but I guarantee at different times during the Champions Trophy, Mickey and Michael will be talking about Ashes cricket at some stage.”

While the retirements of Ponting and Michael Hussey have left holes in Australia’s batting line-up, the Tasmanian was encouraged by the emergence of a group of fast bowlers including rising stars James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc.

“I think the bowling group we’ve got at the moment will bowl well in these conditions,” Ponting said. “I think as far as groups of fast bowlers I’ve seen probably in the last 10 years, this current group would probably be as exciting as any.

“I’m really looking forward to the contest. I think it will be a fantastic series.”

The 38-year-old, one of the best batsmen of his generation, retired from Test cricket in December with 13,378 runs, including 41 hundreds, in 168 matches at an average of 51.85 to his name.

And in an interview with Wednesday’s Daily Mail he hinted at a possible Ashes return should Australia, aiming to avoid losing three successive Test series against England for the first time since the 1950s, suffer  an injury crisis.

But Ponting backtracked later on Wednesday, insisting he was done with Test cricket.

“There are three or four spare batsmen on the tour — I’ve retired from Test match cricket. I’ll say now ‘No, I won’t be playing Ashes cricket this summer — no matter how many injuries they have’.

“That’s an absolute definite. I’m very happily retired from international cricket.”