Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting insists he would resist comeback call for the Ashes


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The Independent Online

If everything goes according to plan, Ricky Ponting will score a bucketload of runs for Surrey over the next two months and, in an Ashes summer in which Australian batsmen will find themselves under enormous pressure, spark a clamour for him to reconsider his retirement and come to the aid of his country, particularly if they suffer a run of injuries.

If his phone rings and it is Cricket Australia on the line, he will pick it up; and should he be asked his advice he will gladly give it. As Australia's most successful captain, he would feel it his duty. But that is as far as he will go. There will be no international comeback.

"They know my number and if I was asked for my input I'd give it, absolutely," Ponting said as he prepared to make his Surrey debut against Derbyshire, just along the A52 from where the Ashes showdown begins, at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, on 10 July.

"But I will say now that I won't be playing Ashes cricket this summer no matter how many injuries they have. I'm very happily retired from international cricket. That's definite."

Since Ponting announced the end of his international career last December as one of only four batsmen in history to make in excess of 13,000 Test runs, he has been in sparkling form, scoring 911 runs at an average of 75.91 in Sheffield Shield cricket for Tasmania and captaining the victorious Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League. The demand for his services will take him from Surrey direct to the West Indies to take part in the inaugural Caribbean Premier League.

But he insists the decision to quit international cricket is irreversible. "Cricket is about winning games and being good enough to help your team win games," he said. "I've been good enough at first-class level, I had a good season for Tasmania and I now hope to make a big contribution for Surrey. But I realised during my last Australia series, when I was playing well in the nets but couldn't transfer that form into the games, that my best wasn't good enough for international cricket any more."

Given that it meant passing up the chance to correct his two Ashes defeats in England it was a tough decision to take and he admits it will "feel strange" to be in England this summer and not be taking part.

"It will be strange once the Ashes gets under way but at the same time it is the best time to be in England. When England are doing well, the Ashes takes over everything. I'll be focused on playing for Surrey but I'm sure I'll have one small eye on what's going on at the Tests."

He accepts that England are favourites but rejects the notion of a one-sided contest. "It is going to be a great challenge, but I would say the current fast-bowling group would be as exciting as any I have seen in Australian cricket in the last 10 years and if the top-order batsmen can find a way to score runs I think this series might be quite close.

"There is a lot of negativity around on the back of a 4-0 loss in India but if you go back to the series against South Africa and my last Test match, if we had won that game we would have gone back to No 1 in the world."

Ponting's Surrey assignment takes in four YB40 games, nine Twenty20s and five in the Championship, at least one of which will see him line up for once alongside Kevin Pietersen. "I spoke to Kevin in Mumbai and again when I landed yesterday," he said. "I don't know him that well. When I played against him I didn't tend to engage with him much because he struck me as the kind of player who the more you engaged him the better he might play.

"You have an impression of someone from the way they play their cricket but then when you get to know them it can be vastly different. I think people are finding that out about me now compared with when I had my Australian captain's head on."