Ponting’s expertise worth punting on
USMAN Khawaja will return to international cricket in an Australian one-day squad that could provide a preview of Steve Smith’s new-look Test team.
Selectors are expected to rest all of Australia’s front-line Ashes bowlers, with exciting youngsters Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Gurinder Sandhu likely to form the brunt of the attack.
The 50-over matches against England and Ireland after the Ashes shape as the start of Australia’s experience vacuum and the ideal opportunity to blood top-class batsmen such as Khawaja to also serve as a stepping stone to the new era Test tour of Bangladesh in October.
Khawaja last represented his country in 2013, but his domestic one-day form over recent years has been superb and the left-hander, who averages 47, is coming off a hundred for Australia A in India.
Queensland teammate Joe Burns made a ton in the same match and is also a big chance to make the one-day squad, as he is to rejoin the Test team for Bangladesh after making his debut last summer at the MCG.
It is expected opener Aaron Finch will return from an injury plagued four months to lead from the front at the top of the order.
Unlike Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin, Shane Watson has not retired from one-day cricket in the wake of the World Cup triumph.
On experience and because of his terrific ODI record, Watson might get another chance for the six one-dayers and one Twenty20, but if he misses out it could be a pointer to his Test career also being over.
For Smith, this will be the start of his ODI captaincy and reign as the figurehead of all Australian cricket.
With young stars set to feature, Smith will receive great experience in mentoring young guns and working with selectors and coach on managing them through.
Matt Wade is set to take over from Haddin behind the gloves, with Peter Nevill believed to be thought of as a Test player only at this stage.
Several other players from the Australia A side now in India could also come into the frame, such as NSW allrounder Sean Abbott and either 2013 Ashes wonder Ashton Agar or fellow spinner Adam Zampa.
World Cup stars Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh will return.
There is a possibility David Warner could be rested given the intensity of his international schedule.
Experienced heads George Bailey and Shaun Marsh might be at a slight crossroads with their international careers, but outstanding leader Bailey in particular could be an ideal sounding board for Smith’s first tour.
After Bailey was unlucky not to play a greater role in the World Cup, it would be fitting for him to assume Clarke’s vacant batting spot at No.4.
However, overwhelmingly selectors should and will look to the future. BRING back Ricky Ponting.
Australia’s Ashes debacle should be the perfect cue for Australia to try to persuade Ponting to relink with the Australian cricket side.
The ideal place for him would be as a batting consultant where he could tutor Australia’s wafer-thin top order about the nuances of the long innings, adapting from shortform to long-form cricket and playing in different conditions.
That Michael Clarke is one Test from retirement sweetens the timing of a possible Ponting return for the two have a loveless relationship.
Ponting recently completed his first stint as a senior coach and it ended with Mumbai Indians winning the Twenty20 Indian Premier League.
Ponting was widely lauded for his composure under pressure and tactical nous.
In his post-Test career autobiography, Matthew Hayden described Ponting as one of the greatest readers of batting technique he had ever seen.
If Trevor Bayliss could work wonders with England, don’t tell me Ricky Ponting couldn’t make a mark with Australia.
For clipped, concise batting advice, there is no one better.
“He knew my game so well that he could often tell what I was thinking by how I picked up my bat in my backswing,’’ Hayden wrote.
The challenges batsmen face now are different to what they were a decade ago – for instance in T20 cricket they get told to get bat on everything. In Test cricket they get told to let it go.
Ponting has lived and played through all of these.
His gifts are too precious to be ignored.
One obstacle to Ponting’s return is that the current Australian batting coach, Michael Di Venuto, is one of Ponting’s closest mates for they were long-time Sheffield Shield teammates in Tasmania.