Former test captain Steve Waugh says he would be ''honoured'' to share his record as Australia's most capped test player with Ricky Ponting.
The knives were drawn by critics and pointed squarely in 37-year-old Ponting's direction after he scored just 20 runs - 0, 4, 16 - in three innings against the world's No 1 bowling attack. However, Waugh, who represented Australia in 168 tests between 1985 and 2004, said he admired Ponting's longevity and tenacity.
Waugh said knowing everything Ponting, the nation's most prolific run-scorer with 167 test appearances, had gone through - and was enduring as he fought to retain his place in the Australian team - was the reason why he would be proud to share the mantle as ''most capped'' with him.
''I [couldn't] see why he wouldn't be [playing] in Perth,'' Waugh said. ''Obviously, he'd like some more runs, but when you play that amount of tests you realise how much goes into it; the time, the training sessions, the time you spend away [from family] ... it is a huge commitment. So, it'd be an honour to share the same amount of tests with Ricky when he gets to 168 ... being the only Australians to do it would be fantastic.''
Ponting conceded after his cheap dismissals in Brisbane and Adelaide a ''hard'' conversation with the selectors was imminent. However, while his torment was widely documented, Waugh said neither the scrutiny nor calls for Ponting to be axed should have shocked the gritty Tasmanian.
Indeed, Waugh, who experienced much of the same treatment towards the end of his career, said
Ponting should have expected it. ''That's only natural,'' Waugh said. ''He'd expect that, I expected it and anyone who plays the game realises you're judged by your performances, and that is only fair.
''It doesn't matter what's being written in the newspapers or what the journalists are saying, you know yourself how you're going, and I think Ricky - after 15-or-so years of playing for Australia - knows exactly what he has to do.''
There had been a suggestion next month's first test in his native Hobart against Sri Lanka - the nation he made his debut against in 1995 - should be orchestrated to be his farewell, but Glenn McGrath argued Ponting was only one decent innings away from top form.
''Before the test series started he was the in-form batsman in the Shield,'' McGrath said. ''A big hundred isn't that far off and once he gets that he'll be right ... I'd pick Ricky in any team of mine.''
- Sydney Morning Herald