Ponting to lead Australia vs Sri Lanka

Former captain Ricky Ponting will lead the Australian cricket team in Friday’s ODI tri-series match against Sri Lanka in the absence of an injured Michael Clarke, while veteran pacer Brett Lee has made an earlier than expected return to the 14-member squad announced on Tuesday.

Ponting, who stepped down as captain last year, was named to lead the side as Clarke picked up a hamstring strain during Sunday’s match against India and his out of form regular deputy Brad Haddin is not even in the squad.

David Warner has been named vice-captain by the National Selection Panel (NSP) due to the continuing injury-forced absence of all-rounder Shane Watson.

“After careful consideration the NSP has asked Ricky Ponting if he would captain the Australian ODI team in Michael Clarke’s absence. David Warner displays considerable leadership potential, but the NSP is of the view that he should not, at this moment, have the added responsibility of captaincy thrust on him,” Cricket Australia said in a statement.

“David has been gaining valuable experience under Michael Clarke’s captaincy and now he will have the opportunity to grow his leadership skills further as vice-captain to Ricky Ponting.

“In making this decision the NSP reminded itself of the fact that Ricky Ponting led the winning Australian ICC Cricket World Cup teams in 2003 and 2007. The NSP appreciates the fact that Ricky is prepared to accept this responsibility in the wider interests of the team,” it added.

Australia’s next two tri-series matches are against Sri Lanka at the SCG on Friday and against India at the Gabba on Sunday.

“Michael Clarke will not be considered for the ODI in Sydney this Friday due to a low-grade hamstring strain. The medical staff are hopeful that Michael will be fit to play in Brisbane on Sunday. Hence he has been included in the squad,” NSP chairman John Inverarity said.

“Some players are showing signs of fatigue after a demanding summer in which the Australian team has played with great intensity and purpose and performed with distinction. The National Selection Panel (NSP) has omitted Ryan Harris for this reason and for the fact that he is carrying some minor niggles,” he added.

Lee, who suffered a broken toe in a Twenty20 match against India earlier this month, and Ben Hilfenhaus are back in the squad.

“Brett is making a good recovery from his toe injury and will be given rigorous fitness tests before Friday’s ODI fixture,” Inverarity said.

As expected Michael Hussey, who was rested from the match against India, has returned to the squad.

Commenting on Watson, Australia Physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said, “Shane played a Grade cricket game in Sydney on Saturday.”

“He batted and bowled in that game without any issue and will be available for consideration for selection for a Bupa Shield game in Perth later this week as he continues his return from injury,” he added.

The Squad: Michael Clarke (Captain), Ricky Ponting (Captain for Friday’s ODI vs Sri Lanka), David Warner (Vice-Captain), Dan Christian, Xavier Doherty, Peter Forrest, Ben Hilfenhaus, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Brett Lee, Mitchell Marsh, Clint McKay, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade. (PTI)