The national selectors have spoken to Ricky Ponting about his future as the Perth Test looms.
Although no decision has been made about his prospects beyond the series decider against South Africa, the fact that the topic has been discussed with Ponting after his struggles in Brisbane and Adelaide strengthens the impression that his performances at the WACA Ground from Friday could determine whether the 37-year-old survives.
That is consistent with Ponting's views. He said on Channel Nine at the weekend that he knew a conversation with the selectors was coming, and their hand would be forced unless he scored significant runs soon.
Coach Mickey Arthur has said Ponting has the unanimous backing of selectors and although his position in the team for the third Test was not scrutinised, ''by his own admission Perth is a big Test for him''.
Ponting will fight for his career at the ground where, as a precocious debutant 17 years ago, he was controversially dismissed for 96 against Sri Lanka. He was denied a century on debut when he was given out leg before wicket despite being hit on the thigh by Chaminda Vaas, a decision that would have been overturned by the modern decision-review system. The former captain averages 41.43 at the WACA Ground, his lowest average at a regular Australian Test venue by a considerable margin. (Next is the MCG, where he averages 58.)
Ponting has made one Test century in Perth, 197 against Pakistan in 1999. He and Australia could use a second now.
He will draw level with Steve Waugh on 168 Tests in Perth and Waugh said this week he would be honoured to share the mantle as Australia's most-capped Test player with him. Whether the Tasmanian gets to 169 remains to be seen.
Ponting yesterday received support from Michael Hussey, who backed the former captain to emerge from his form slump.
''I just think it's crazy to doubt someone like Ricky Ponting. He's an absolute champion,'' Hussey said on Wednesday. ''It's just the nature of this game. Sometimes little things don't go your way.
''He got a couple of fantastic deliveries that would get anybody out. The good thing is he's still in a positive frame of mind, he's still working hard.'
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