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Ponting out of Sydney, Clarke to fill his boots

cricket Updated: Dec 31, 2010 01:46 IST
Agencies
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Ricky Ponting is out with continuing problems over his broken finger, Michael Clarke will captain Australia in his absence and Usman Khawaja will make his Test debut in the fifth test against England in Sydney.

The 24-year-old Khawaja and paceman Doug Bollinger were included in a 12-man squad named Thursday for the final test beginning Monday.

Khawaja replaced Ponting while Bollinger was added as a replacement for Ryan Harris, who has a left ankle injury requiring surgery.

Clarke will start as captain for the first time, with wicketkeeper Brad Haddin named vice-captain.

"With Ricky being unavailable for this match we are sure that both Michael and Brad will lead this Australian side with great professionalism and the full support of the team as we strive for a victory in Sydney," selectors chairman Andrew Hilditch said in a statement.

"We look forward to Ricky completing his recovery and leading this team to a fourth successive ICC Cricket World Cup on the sub-continent at the completion of the Australian summer." Clarke's elevation to the captaincy came despite his poor form throughout the Ashes series. His place in the team had been considered under threat, yet he received a promotion in the absence of any other genuine candidates to fill in as captain. Hilditch said Khawaja's debut was "something we are excited about given his tremendous form at domestic level over the past two seasons."

Clarke's recent record as captain in limited overs games had been poor, but he will captain Australia in the one-day and Twenty20 matches against England following the Test series, with Victorian Cameron White his deputy.

Earlier Thursday, Ponting was ruled out of playing after further x-rays on his broken little finger on his left hand "showed evidence that the fracture . . . has moved during the course of the Melbourne Test," Australia's team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said Thursday in a statement.

Ponting injured the finger in the third Test at Perth. "I'm devastated to tell you the truth, it was the news I was dreading," Ponting said on arrival at Sydney airport on Thursday. "During the game I didn't think I'd done too much more to it." Ponting's injury, combined with the team's failure to regain the Ashes and his own poor batting form, meant the fourth test which finished Wednesday may have been his last.

After England retained the Ashes with an innings win in Melbourne to take an unbeatable 2-1 series lead, Ponting said he was keen to keep playing but would consider the good of the team when making a decision about his playing status.

"I'm not thinking about it at all," Ponting said Thursday when asked whether he would end his 152-Test career.

Australia's next scheduled test series is in August against Sri Lanka and a rebuilding exercise was forecast due to Australia's recent descent in the Test rankings.

Bollinger was recalled despite having been dropped following the heavy loss in the second Test. With Sydney normally providing a pitch that suits spin bowlers, Michael Beer was likely to get his first Test cap, with one of the pacemen relegated to 12th man.

Australia fifth Test squad: Michael Clarke (captain), Shane Watson, Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Mike Hussey, Steve Smith, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger, Michael Beer (12th man to be named).

Ponting laments dearth of talent
Sydney:
Ponting has blamed the lack of talented players in the reserves for the team's inability to match their previous aura of invincibility. "Maybe we have not got as deep a pool of talent to pick from that we have had in previous years," Ponting was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday. "That happens at different times. I am a big believer in the cycle. You look back 20 years or 30 years, we were one of the worst cricket nations in the world. We have not been a powerhouse of world cricket forever."

Ponting said he will be doing his best to groom the youngsters in the side.

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