FORMER Australian skipper Ricky Ponting admitted that, while Michael Hussey's international retirement shocked him, he didn't know whether he'd have batted on for Australia had he been aware of his friend's plan.
''That's a tough question, I haven't thought about it,'' Ponting said. ''Thinking back I wonder if Huss might've wanted to retire after the Perth Test because it was in front of his home crowd … I wonder now if I beat him to the punch by announcing my retirement.''
Regardless, the retirements of both Ponting and Hussey before the tours to India and England, represented a loss of vast experience and knowledge from the Australian team, although he said it presented a number of players with the opportunity to stamp their authority on the team.
''I must admit I didn't think Michael would retire until after the Ashes series [was played in Australia] because he was batting well,'' Ponting said. ''It's now Phil Hughes's turn and Usman Khawaja's turn - if he gets a chance - and Shane Watson's turn and Dave Warner's turn. They have to stand up now and take over the role as the senior batsmen.''
One player Ponting expected to be considered for the Ashes tour was his Tasmanian team mate Alex Doolan, a player in which he'd invested a lot of time and faith. Doolan thrust himself in the national spotlight when he scored an unconquered 161 for Australia A against South Africa at the SCG.
''He's very good,'' Ponting said. ''Whenever I went back to Tassie and watched him play or bat in the nets I could tell he had a bit of class. He has a bit of time on his side and he can move on the field, too.
''I always believed Alex just needed to realise himself how good a player he is. During our pre-season I tried to spend as much time around him as I could and most mornings when I was in Hobart we'd eat breakfast together so we could talk cricket.
''The first breakfast I had with him I asked how were we going to elevate his game to the next level and I dedicated myself and my time to him to try to get everything out of him I possibly could. He started the season really well and hopefully he can kick on. With an Ashes tour coming up he should be seriously considered.''
Ponting admitted he'd needed to wean himself off cricket since he stored his baggy green cap away. ''I've had to take myself away from watching too much of the team because, if I didn't, I would have found retirement harder,'' he said. ''Being in the Big Bash and spending time at home with the family probably allowed me not to miss it as much as I thought I would.
''And that's not under-valuing playing cricket for Australia, that part of my life is gone … it's behind me now.''
Ponting, whose foundation had raised $10 million over the past decade to assist children battling cancer, was in the throes of preparing for Australia's Biggest Game of Cricket on Australia Day. The initiative allows anyone who plays a game of cricket on our nation's birthday to make a difference to children's lives by making an online donation.
''I'll be training with Tasmania on Australia Day because we play in Brisbane the following day but we're working on getting something together to be a part of it,'' he said. ''Rianna [his wife] and our little girls and her sister have registered their backyard game online and it's going well.
Ponting urged anyone who wanted more details on how to help to go to biggestgameofcricket.com.au.