Tim Nielsen backs Ricky Ponting to return as captain

Ricky Ponting will skipper Australia again, according to Tim Nielsen, the coach of the national side. Ponting will ignore the final Test against England next week with a broken finger, and with his long-term future already in some doubt after the failure to win back the Ashes and his own poor form, there is speculation that he has led his country for the last time.But Nielsen today backed the 36-year-old to return. Asked if Ponting had captained his last match, Nielsen said: "I wouldn't have thought so. He'll miss [the fifth] Test match through injury and Clarke has been named as his replacement while his finger recovers. I still think there's abundance of kick in the old dog yet, so to speak.

"Ricky, as he's the first to admit, hasn't had the best series but he's been a tremendous leader for us and still is. I expect once his finger's right and he's back playing cricket he'll assume the leadership role again."Ponting played through the injury in the fourth Test at the MCG, where England's loud innings triumph ensured they would retain the Ashes. Further x-rays have now shown Ponting may need surgery, ruling him out of the Test in Sydney."I had a good chat with him last night," Nielsen said. "His finger was still really sore. It was a really hard decision for him because he didn't want to be seen to be or feel like he was leaving his mates behind.

"That's the style of man he is. Ultimately, it's just a situation where the finger won't allow him to perform at this best ... it's hard enough to perform at your best under the pressure we've been under in the past four or five weeks without having injuries to cooperation that also."With a look to what we have coming up, more troubles with the finger could have meant a much longer-term concern. I think, with the medical staff, he's made a very prudent decision with an eye to playing some good cricket for Australia again as soon as he can."The Pakistan-born batsman Usman Khawaja has come into Australia's 12-man squad as Ponting's replacement.


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