Sydney:Australia captain Ricky Ponting on Wednesday sprang to the defence of beleaguered teammate Matthew Hayden and said the bulky opener's woeful form notwithstanding, he wants him to continue playing.
A day before Australia name their one day and Twenty20 squads for the home series against South Africa -- Hayden is doubtful in both -- Ponting came out in support of the towering batsman who, he thought, could prove to be a valuable asset during the difficult transitional phase.
"I'd love Matty to keep playing, if you are asking me personally. I'd have him in my team every day of the week because he's a champion player and a champion bloke and great for our team right at the moment," Ponting said after his side won the third and final Test against South Africa on Wednesday.
"Those sort of experienced guys are great to have around your team when you are rebuilding and in transition. I'd take him into battle every time," Ponting said.
Ponting said he does not foresee the opener to call it quits any time soon despite his prolonged bad patch.
"I'm pretty good mates with Matty. I've known him for a long time and I've had no indication or inclination either way," Ponting said.
"He showed a lot of good signs in the second innings of this game on a pretty difficult wicket," said Ponting, referring to the 39 runs Hayden scored in the second innings against South Africa.
Incidentally, it was Hayden's highest score this summer.
"I just don't know one way or the other at the moment. But if anything I'd be saying that it's all pretty positive that he wants to go on.
"That would be my gut feel right now. I think I would have known if it wasn't that way," Ponting said, dismissing Hayden's retirement talks.
Ponting's opposite number Graeme Smith also talked highly of Hayden but was happy with the way his bowlers tamed the Australian.
"I know what he can do and what he is capable of and we have seen him play at a level over a period of time knowing that he has that in him.
""We treat him the same as we have in this series - we have had our game plans and they have worked well in this series. If he is picked again we will be able to do that again," Smith said.