Ponting wants to heal Ashes pain

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The Independent Online

Ricky Ponting has just about everything an international cricketer could crave on his CV - and one thing no Australian wants.

Ponting's decorated career includes twice being named world player of the year, second place in Test cricket's list of prolific centurions, fourth among all-time run scorers and a raft of winners' medals as captain in global limited-overs events.

The one indelible mark, however, was left by the 2005 Ashes defeat to England.

Not even the clinical revenge of a 5-0 whitewash in the 2006-07 series which followed will make up for the fact the Australians relinquished the little urn for the first time in 16 years on his watch.

He cannot alter history but this summer presents his chance to address his blemish with what is effectively a new team.

By the time the eagerly-awaited 2005 Ashes got under way the cracks in an almost invincible Australian side were beginning to appear - ageing players were being tested to the full and then one of the set, Glenn McGrath, tripped over a stray ball.

The humiliating one-day loss to Bangladesh caused the first ripple of dissent against his leadership style, and his decision to insert England in that second Test at Edgbaston also led to derision from within.

Ponting, 34, gave his all with the bat to avert a greater margin of defeat - his big hundred to save the Old Trafford contest emphasising the class of his batsmanship.

"There's one thing on my cricketing resume that hasn't been achieved yet, and that's being captain of a winning Ashes series in England," Ponting said, when Australia revealed their 16-man squad.

"It's something very dear to my heart, and something I'll certainly be speaking to the players about - making sure we get over that hurdle."

There are only four members of this current squad who were part of the 2005 set and that could be an advantage in itself.

Just as England found four years ago, not being tainted with previous defeats can be channelled positively.

However, Ponting insists the result has not changed his opinion of the tussle.

"We all realised last time what mistakes we made and we also realised how great a Test series that was to be a part of," Ponting said.

"Even though we lost, it was probably the greatest Test series I've played in. I don't think there'll be any hangover from 2005.

"In 2005, we got off to a great start and then things slipped away from us from there. A lot of us have been there, and learned from our mistakes of last time and we're keen to rectify that."

Australia, and Ponting in particular with 196 at the Gabba, made a robust start to the 2006-07 rematch and his team's momentum was never relinquished despite England shaping the course of the second Test at Adelaide.

Ponting was named man of the series as Australia became the first team in 86 years to achieve an Ashes clean sweep.

His 576 runs at 82.28 are evidence of his personal quest to clear his name - he rode calls to resign in the immediate aftermath of the drawn final Test at the Oval such was the ill feeling at losing to the old foe.

Whatever the scoreline this summer, few would bet against Ponting registering the three hundreds he requires to reach 40 at Test level.

Throughout his time in charge, the responsibility of leadership has rarely diminished his output with the bat, which is a rare feat indeed in modern cricket.

Ponting regressed to mere mortal status through 2007, when he went 13 months without a Test century, while he was also relatively quiet this past winter.

But his pre-Ashes average of 56.20 is superior to that of any contemporary rival.

So it is perhaps no wonder that Australia's chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch has planned for his country's current captain to continue all the way to the end of the 2011 World Cup, regardless of the result against England.

"Leadership issues are things that we always think about but we are really confident that Ricky will be more than capable of getting through to the 2011 World Cup, and I know that is something he would like to do, so I don't see that as being an issue," Hilditch said.

"We have been very careful with managing his workload in the last three or four years.

"From time to time we will look at his workload, particularly on overseas tours and try and keep it to a manageable level, but for key events Ricky is always going to be a critical member of the side."