x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Nielsen: 'Ponting still the best'

The Australia coach backs Ricky Ponting amid calls for the Tasmanian to relinquish the Test captaincy ahead of the Ashes starting next month.

Even as Michael Clarke gets ready to marshall Australia's one-day team in Kochi this morning, Tim Nielsen, the Australia coach, has backed Ricky Ponting amid calls for the Tasmanian to relinquish the Test captaincy ahead of the Ashes starting next month.

Ponting has been under fire in the wake of Australia's 2-0 Test series loss to India, a result which saw the side slump to fifth in the Test rankings. Geoff Lawson, the former Australia fast bowler, has suggested the 35-year-old should step down to concentrate on his batting and let Clarke, the Test vice captain, take the reins.

Shane Warne, the legendary Australia leg-spinner, publicly criticised Ponting's tactics in Twitter posts on the final day of Australia's thumping seven-wicket defeat in Bangalore this week.

"We've got a selection panel of four but in all seriousness, there about 20 million out there who are on the selection panel," Nielsen told local media yesterday. "That's what is great about our game. Everyone has their opinion.

"While we haven't had some of the results we would have liked, there's no doubt in my mind, or anybody's mind inside the group, that Ricky is the right man to lead the team."

Nielsen also defended Nathan Hauritz, the embattled off-spinner, who endured a poor series was carted around by Indian bats on the final day in Bangalore.

"Don't lay all the blame or all the ideas on Nathan Hauritz," he said. "We didn't bowl or bat as well as we could have for the whole series."

Australia's five-Test Ashes series against England starts in Brisbane next month.

Meanwhile, a much-changed Australia line-up will look to recover from their Test series defeat when the three-day one-day international series against India begins in Kochi today.

Clarke, Hauritz, Doug Bollinger, Michael Hussey, Tim Paine and Steve Smith are the only members of the Test squad backing up for the 50-over games.

The eight reinforcements provide an interesting mix; there is experience in the form of Cameron White and James Hopes, and the promise of first-timers at this level in John Hastings, the Victoria all-rounder, and Mitchell Starc, the New South Wales paceman, while David Warner will be looking to prove he is more than a Twenty20 specialist.

Australia and India have only met twice previously at the Nehru Stadium in Kochi, and have managed a win apiece. Clarke and Hopes are the only survivors of the most recent contest there, in 2007.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether rain would play spoilsport in today's match - with yesterday's practice sessions being washed out.

* Agencies