London: Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has said he is ready to return to Test cricket if required as an emergency call-up for Ashes duty against England.
The 38-year-old, one of the best batsmen of his generation, retired from Test cricket in December with 13,378 runs, including 41 hundreds, in 168 matches at an average of 51.85 to his name.
Ponting is in England, where Australia will hope to regain the Ashes in a series starting in July, to play county cricket for London-based side Surrey. But he said that if his country came calling again it would be hard to say 'no'.
"Mate, they will have reserve batsmen around should anything like that happen so I don't think they will be needing me. You wouldn't say no, would you, if that call came and I would never say never, but you have to say a call-up like that now is extremely unlikely," Ponting told Wednesday's Daily Mail.
"I won't be in the changing room but I'll be keeping a close eye on what's going on, that's for sure," Ponting added.
"It won't be a case of keeping my distance from the Australian blokes or letting them get on with it. I have a lot of good friends in the side and I'll be catching up with them and talking about what's going on.
"If Michael Clarke (the current Australia captain) wants to run anything by me he knows where I am. There's nothing official in place but I'll only be down the road."
Ponting would have loved another crack at arch-rivals England in what is cricket's oldest Test contest, with the first official Anglo-Australian clash having taken place in 1877.
However, a poor series at home to South Africa convinced him he was no longer reaching the required standard and, with fellow senior batsman Mike Hussey retiring as well, Australia's now have some big shoes to fill in their top order.
"This was the series I was playing on for without a doubt," Ponting said. "I felt Australia would have been a stronger side in this Ashes with both me and Mike Hussey in the side.
"The Ashes are the pinnacle and England is the greatest tour to be on. But the bottom line is I just wasn't good enough any more to be a part of this team. I knew that."