The Ashes: We have let Australians down - Ponting

Ricky Ponting will put Australia before himself when he considers the future viability of his Test captaincy.

Ponting can expect to be named tomorrow as the man to lead Australia in this winter's final Ashes Test, despite today's innings-and-157-run defeat at the MCG, which means England will retain the urn, come what may in Sydney.

An unassailable 2-1 series lead has seen to that, leaving Ponting to consider the prospect of becoming the first Australian captain since the 19th century to lose the Ashes three times.

That would be an unfair epitaph for a great career.

But there is no arguing with the fact that, at 36, Ponting's batting form has deserted him just when he and his team have needed it most.

A paltry 113 runs from eight innings - including an unbeaten 51 in the first Test - is a poor return for one of the world's best batsman.

Ponting is as admirably honest as he is fearsomely competitive, and admits he may have to give some thought at least to his habitual claim to the critical number three position.

But his inclination appears to be to carry on as captain - if allowed to do so.

"Whatever decision I make, it's really important it's for the betterment of Australian cricket," he said.

"I want to keep playing. I would love to keep leading the team. I still think I've got a lot to offer in both those regards - but it's got to be about the betterment of Australia cricket.

"It's never been about me. It's always been about the team and what's right for the team."

Ponting is convinced he is still the right man to captain Australia, but is more equivocal about his batting.

"I've felt I've led the team as well as I can.

"I want to be around the team, helping these young guys through the tougher times and think I still have a lot to offer those younger blokes.

"I haven't performed the way I wanted to perform. But I certainly haven't done it without trying, that's for sure.

"I guess there's been a few doubts creep into my mind the last couple of weeks - I'm not going to hide that.

"I think I definitely have to re-evaluate where I'm at as a Test

batsman."

Ponting believes he has had little good fortune.

"We have played four Tests - eight innings - and I've not done a lot wrong to be dismissed in a few of those.

"But that is the game, and when you are a having a run like I am having at the moment you almost find ways of getting out.

"The game can almost grab hold of you and feel like you are unlucky all the time.

"That is not the case, and I just have to find a way to turn it around."

As for the landslide defeat in this Boxing Day Test, again Ponting cites mitigation - but does not dress it up as an excuse. "The toss had a bit to do with where we found ourselves on day one.

"But they have just been better.

"Yes, there was something in the wicket - and yes, it was a great toss to win. But it was certainly not a 98-all-out wicket.

"When they had their chance to bat they showed us how to bat in Test match cricket.

"They did what they needed to do when it really mattered - that's what we haven't been able to do for the majority of the series."

Only a win in Sydney will stop Ponting claiming an unenviable record.

"I hope I'm not only remembered as that guy, the guy that lost three Ashes series," he said.

"There's lots of other great things I've been lucky to be able to be part of as a player throughout my career.

"But it is such a huge series for all the players and the fans around the cricketing world.

"We feel we have let ourselves down and we feel we have let the cricket public of Australia down.

"We have had great support during all the Test matches we have played, and I am sure we will next week as well.

"We know we have let them down and we have to give them something positive as far as Australian cricket is concerned."

Much therefore rests on the outcome at the SCG, for Ponting and Australia, and he is keeping the faith.

"I know we can do it - I have no doubts we can do it - I have total confidence in this group of players in being able to bounce back and turn things around.

"We can go to Sydney with a chance of being able to level the series and regain some pride in the team performance and also give the fans around Australia something to be proud of.

"That will be our whole focus from now till the end of the Sydney Test."

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