Cricket: Sorry Ponting admits drink is a problem drink

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THE AUSTRALIAN Test player Ricky Ponting yesterday admitted he has a drink problem after being dropped from the one-day team because of an incident in a Sydney nightclub.

The Australian Cricket Board's chief executive, Malcolm Speed, said the altercation, in which Ponting was reportedly knocked out, was still being investigated and he expected the player would be charged under the ACB's code of conduct.

Ponting, who had a black left eye, said he had no recollection of the incident, which occurred in a club in the King's Cross area of the city during the early hours of Monday morning, following Australia's loss to England at the Sydney Cricket Ground. He said the next thing he remembered was being in the team's hotel.

"I feel I have let a lot of people down, particularly my team-mates and family and Tasmanian and Australian cricket," Ponting said. "I'm very embarrassed. On occasions I drink too much and get myself into situations I don't intend to be in."

Ponting, who admitted he had "overstepped the mark a couple of times now", said he would seek counselling and promised to come back "squeaky clean".

Although Ponting has been excluded from the Australia side to face Sri Lanka today in Hobart in the Carlton & United series, Speed said it was intended that he would remain suspended until the investigation and any code of conduct hearing was finalised.

Speed said the ACB had the power to fine or suspend players whose conduct brought the game into disrepute or who engaged in acts of misconduct.

It is the second time the 24-year-old Tasmanian has been disciplined for an off-the-field incident. Last March he was fined a "substantial amount" by the Australian team management because of an incident in a Calcutta nightclub after the second Test against India.

Speed said the Australian team management had discussed the incident and were satisfied there was a clear breach of the team's rules relating to discipline and drinking.

The Australian side's general rule is that a 1.30am curfew is imposed after day-night matches, and midnight on other nights, and that at all times drinking should be moderate and players well-behaved. Speed said he hoped the code of conduct hearing would be held early next week. Ponting said no other Australian players were involved.