RICKY PONTING is prepared to leave the decision of whether he is fit for the Boxing Day Ashes Test until the last minute – but insists he will play only if it is in Australia's best interests.
Ponting, 36 yesterday, broke a bone in his left little finger when he parried a catch from second slip to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin in his team's series-levelling win over England at the WACA.
After X-rays revealed the small fracture, and Ponting tested the injury in warm-ups yesterday morning, he sat out what turned out to be the final session of the match as Australia prevailed by 267 runs on the fourth morning.
Ponting was subsequently named as captain in an unchanged 12-man squad for next week's Melbourne Test, which will begin with the series all square at 1-1 and two matches to play.
"I'll have to make the decision close to the game – probably on the morning itself," he said.
Ponting is mindful of his experience 12 months ago when he declared himself fit to play against Pakistan at the MCG, despite having barely recovered from an elbow injury.
He admits that was a close-run thing – he scored a first-innings 50, and Australia won – but thinks the situation should be more clear-cut this time.
"I think, being a little finger on my left hand, it's not as significant as my top elbow was last year," he added. "There was no doubt I was hindered last year – and learnt a fair bit from that.
"I'm not going to be silly and put myself ahead of the team in such an important game."