Nagpur:A hurt Australian captain Ricky Ponting on Monday hit back at his detractors, saying he never kept himself above team's interest when he asked part-timers to bowl to make up for the team's slow over-rate on the penultimate day of the fourth and final Test against India.
Ponting, who would have invited suspension for the team's slow over-rate, said he never felt bowling part-timers, with some impressive performances under their belt, and not the regular fast bowlers was a "negative" tactic, as depicted by his critics, including Cricket Australia Director and former captain Allan Border.
"To tell you the truth I'm a little bit disappointed with some of the criticism, particularly from former Australian captains and CA board members," he said after conceding a 172-run defeat and the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at the new VCA stadium.
"The thing I'm most disappointed about is there seems to be this inference out there that I've put myself totally ahead of the team. Anybody that knows me or knows the way I play my cricket or operate around the Australian team or any team would hopefully not say that's the case," he shot back.
"I'd like to think as far as team players go that there haven't been many who have ever played for Australia would do more than I have for the team," he claimed.
Ponting's strategy of using part-time spin bowlers to speed up the over-rate which was very tardy and not coming hard at India with his frontline pacers when the hosts were struggling at 166 for six, helped the latter set a target of 382 for a win which proved too much for his batsmen today.
"I have an obligation to try to bowl 90 overs in the day's play and the way we were heading if the quicks had continued then we would have been maybe 12 overs down by the time the day ended," Ponting said.
"At no stage did I ever feel it was totally negative at the other end. With Cameron White I actually felt he'd be as good a chance as anybody of getting Harbahjan out. As soon as Michale Clarke was fit he came back on and it's only a few months ago he won us a Test in Sydney with his bowling," he suggested.
Ponting, however, admitted things did not work out well for the team when he had to use White and Clarke at the other end from where top wicket-taker and off-spinner Jason Krejza was bowling.
"I had Jason Krejza bowling at one end who ended up taking 12 wickets in the game (and) Cameron White, who'd been the no. 1-picked spinner in the first three Test matches operating from the other end for a couple of overs," he pointed out.
He also said that he, as a captain, had the responsibility to bowl 90 overs which would not have been possible if his quick bowlers were operating.
"That didn't work out the way I'd have liked, Michael Clarke was the next choice, he'd been off the field ill and couldn't bowl until 3.10 pm. Being in the situation that we were, nine overs down, (and) myself as captain of the Australian cricket team I feel I have a lot of responsibility to play the game in the right spirit," he explained.
"Everyone's got a point of view on how I captain the team and the way the team plays," he said, as a parting shot at Border.
But he admitted there was a need for his fast bowlers to quicken up the over-rate and said this problem had been cropping up since the Perth Test against India late last year.
"Absolutely. We speak about it at every team meeting. I've told the bowlers, the whole team, for a couple of years now that if we keep going the way we are there's going to be some time or moment where it's really going to come back and hurt us or bite us.
"I'm not saying this right now but there have been other times where we've had to do that. I remember Perth last summer. It was almost exactly the same. We got down to eight or nine overs down there as well. So it absolutely can hurt you," he said.
Coming back to the Test series lost by his team 0-2, Ponting said that India had totally outplayed the tourists.
"On this tour we've just been totally outplayed. With the exception of the first Test where we pretty much dominated that game, any other game we've got back to level but never really got in front," he said.
He also rued losing the toss in the last three Tests and said that in Indian conditions this could turn out to be a big disadvantage if a team does not do well in the first innings.
Ponting said Indian bowlers used the conditions better and rued that his own bowlers had to try their best after losing the toss when the wickets were at their best.
"There's no doubt they've used the conditions better. They've had a chance to bowl on older wickets, we've bowled first in the last three Tests where it's hard to get the ball reversing till really late in the day's play. Their batsmen have out-batted us as well," he admitted.
However, on an optimistic note he praised the bowling of debutant Krejza and also said this tour was a good learning experience for his team that would stand them in good stead.
"Jason's debut is astounding really. For someone to take 12 wickets on debut is a magnificent achievement. He's worked exceptionally hard the whole time he's been here. He's been waiting for an opportunity, it presented itself in this last Test and he's stood up to be counted, probably more than anybody else has in the whole series," he said.
"We've all learned, particularly the younger guys, about how high that level has to be if you want to win Tests series in this part of the world," he said.