- The Investec Ashes 2013
Ponting Ashes comeback ruled out
Australia would not turn to retired batsmen such as Ricky Ponting or Simon Katich even if captain Michael Clarke's back problem continues to plague him during the Ashes, according to national selector John Inverarity. Clarke has been out of action since arriving in England and could miss the whole of the Champions Trophy, while his readiness for the Ashes is also looming as a potential concern.
Meanwhile, Ponting has made a strong start to his county stint with Surrey, scoring 192, 52 and 38 not out in his three first-class innings so far. Before his first match, Ponting said in an interview that if the Australians came calling during the Ashes he would consider coming out of retirement, although the next day he backtracked and said there was no possibility of him being part of the Ashes campaign.
Katich has also enjoyed a solid start to the county season and although he is yet to make a century for Lancashire, he has posted three 80-plus scores and has 406 runs at 50.75. Katich played his last Test during the previous Ashes series, in Adelaide in December 2010, and departed from international cricket on sour terms with the selection panel, then headed by Andrew Hilditch, after he was dumped from the contract list in 2011.
"I think they've both retired from international cricket," Inverarity told AAP when asked about the possibility of Ponting or Katich featuring in the Ashes. "... The answer is no."
Australia's selectors have already put together a list of standby players should injuries arise during the Ashes and it is likely to include Steven Smith, who performed well in India in March and is vice-captain of the Australia A squad currently touring the British Isles. George Bailey, the stand-in Champions Trophy captain in Clarke's absence, could be another option, although his Sheffield Shield form last summer was disappointing.
However, the main focus for the Australian camp in the lead-up to the Ashes is not on potential back-up batsmen, but on ensuring Clarke is fit for action for the first Test starting on July 10. Clarke has battled the back problem since he was a teenager and while he has only missed one Test due to the injury, the concern for Australia is that it was their last Test, in Delhi.
"I'm confident he'll be right for the Ashes," Inverarity said. "I'm confident but one never knows. Nobody works harder than Michael. His preparation is extraordinary."