x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Refreshed and rested, Ricky Ponting ready for a test

Retired from one-dayers, veteran is confident Australia will do well against South Africa.

Ricky Ponting claims he is fit after a two-month layoff followed by 12 weeks of practice.
Ricky Ponting claims he is fit after a two-month layoff followed by 12 weeks of practice.

Ricky Ponting acknowledged he has found it strange having so much time away from international cricket but said he is raring to go for Australia's impending Test series with South Africa next month.

The former Test captain has had close to six months away from cricket after he was frozen out of Australia's one-day international squad earlier in the year.

After 375 appearances and an Australia record 13,704 runs, Ponting reluctantly called stumps on his glittering 50-over career in February.

He had been axed from the team two days earlier following a return of just 18 runs in five innings in the tri-series against India and Sri Lanka.

The 37-year-old chose to focus on his Test career as he sharpened his batting with Tasmania in the Ryobi Cup and Sheffield Shield formats late in the summer before rejoining his national teammates for the three-Test series against the West Indies in April.

Since then though Ponting has had time to work on his game away from the limelight, something he said he found strange initially.

"It was weird but at the same time, I knew what I had to do not being in the one-day set-up and obviously with the Twenty20 World Cup on [in Sri Lanka] ... I had a good long break," Ponting said.

"I made the most of the break for the first couple of months to give my mind and body a bit of a rest because I bashed myself up pretty much all throughout the summer last year.

"After the West Indies, I had a couple of months off with nothing and then about 12 weeks where I trained myself into the ground really."

With an emphasis on mental recuperation, part of that break involved not even picking up a bat.

The 165-Test veteran believes time away from the nets would be beneficial and not hinder his preparation for the upcoming three-Test series against South Africa next month followed by Sri Lanka's visit in December.

"I did a little bit of exercise but didn't touch a bat for a couple of months," Ponting said.

"I needed to freshen up, get my mind right, and more importantly get fit, but just get my mind right around what I've got for the remainder of my career."

First up on the agenda for Ponting and Australia this summer is the world's leading Test side.

South Africa claimed the coveted Test crown after dethroning England in August with a 2-0 series win.

Ponting had high praise for the Proteas, but felt on home turf Australia could upset the world's best. "They're the No 1 team in the world and they're there for a reason," Ponting said.

"They are an exceptionally well balanced side. With [Hashim] Amla playing the best he's ever played, [Jacques] Kallis still doing what he does best, Graeme Smith opening with an average of 50, and [Vernon] Philander and [Dale] Steyn on the bowling front, they are a very good team.

"We've had some great contests against them since I've ever played for Australia and they've never really dominated us. I think we know if we can do everything as well as we can in Australia this year they'll find it hard to beat us."

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