Ricky Ponting's removal from the Australia ODI team has pushed the former captain closer to retirement, leaving him to decide whether or not he wants to go on as a Test batsman only. John Inverarity, the national selector, said there was obvious disappointment when he informed Ponting of the selection panel's decision, and admitted a retirement from all forms was now a possibility.
Inverarity and his fellow selectors, including the national captain Michael Clarke, are adamant that Ponting should go on as a Test batsman. However, they have acknowledged that by taking away limited-overs cricket they have left a vast gap in Ponting's life that had previously been filled by the game's most prevalent format. Having returned to Sydney from Brisbane, where he played the last of 375 ODIs, Ponting is expected to speak publicly about his future on Tuesday.
"He made a double-century in his last Test match and we are hoping he remains available for Test cricket, but there can be no guarantees," Inverarity said. "Ricky is going to consider his future over the next couple of days and talk it over with his family and with his manager. He's wondering whether he retires completely from ODI cricket ... and then of course there are the implications for Test cricket."
"For a man who plays cricket like Ricky has over the last 15 or more years, he has been an integral part of the team in ODIs and Test matches. If he drops out of the ODIs then there is a possible lack of momentum there. There are three Tests in the West Indies, then as I understand it no more Test matches until October-November."
Beyond the West Indies tour, Australia's next scheduled Test matches are at home to South Africa and Sri Lanka, before keynote tours of India and England in 2013. Ponting has previously expressed a desire to return to England and win back the Ashes, but that may now look a very distant goal without the routine of ODIs to help keep him sharp and internationally drilled.
However, Ponting was second only to Clarke on the run tally for both sides in the recent Test series between Australia and India, and his collection of 544 runs made it his third-most prolific Test series of all time. He also has considerable value in the field, remaining one of the sharpest fielders in the world, and important experience in the dressing-room.
Whatever happens, Ponting's immediate Test future remains his own call. Inverarity was generous in his praise of how Ponting took the news of his one-day axing, relayed to him over the course of two phone calls either side of his flight back to Sydney.
"I spoke with Ricky this morning, I think how he took the news is a measure of the man. He was disappointed and understandably so, but he took it on the chin," Inverarity said. "He is a gem of a human being, a wonderful bloke, and he takes everything in his stride. He was under enormous pressure two or three months ago, and he never wavered from his dedication. He's a very resilient and wonderful human being.
"It is a tough decision but when you take over a position like this you know these things are on the cards. You don't put your heart to one side, but your head has got to dominate, and to the credit of the NSP, everyone holds Ricky in the highest regard, as a player and as a person, but we've got a decision to make, and we made a decision we believe is the right decision and the best decision in the interest of Australian cricket."