Ricky Ponting has said that though he's not thinking about retirement right now, he will know when his time is up and will not wait for the selectors to drop him.
Ponting, 37, was speaking to Ian Chappell, the former Australia captain, in an interview for The Daily Telegraph.
"I'm a realist and I'll understand that if there's players out there who can play the game better than me, I'll be the first to accept it and walk away," said Ponting. "I'm not going to let it get to the stage where the selectors drop me. I think I'll identify the right time."
Ponting, who sits second in the all-time run aggregates for Test matches, had endured a run of poor form before hitting a century against India at Sydney at the start of 2012 and ending a run of 33 innings without a hundred. That run included being trapped lbw in three out of four innings during Australia's two-Test series against South Africa in November 2011, a phase that Ponting described as among his lowest.
"I got out a few times the same way in a row and no matter what I did I couldn't seem to get my bat out of the way," said Ponting. "So that was hard and there was speculation around then. Should he be playing? Is he too old? Can he get back to playing the way I know he can play? As much as I kept telling people and myself I could do it, no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't get the results I was after."
Ponting also admitted that the South Africa pace trio of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander had "got his number" in that series, and his technique wasn't where he wanted it to be. With a clash against South Africa looming again, Ponting acknowledged that it would be a tough test, but emphasised that it was one he had made himself ready for. "You look at their side and they've probably got the best bowling attack in the world," he said.
To combat that attack, Ponting has been in hard training for the past few months, and has worked on his batting to iron out flaws that had crept in.
"I have to start playing better off the back foot again," said Ponting. "I was just getting on the front foot too much and not being able to play off the back foot as freely as I used to... this Shield season I started getting back onto the back foot an pulling and hooking as well as I ever have. I know that Steyn and Morkel will try and drag me across the crease and hit my pads and my back wickets, so I know what training and preparation I'll have to do to try and get around that. I feel like my balance is really good and I'm seeing the ball really well."
Ponting also picked out the series win against South Africa away in 2009, that came immediately after South Africa had beaten Australia at home, as his most satisfying moment during his captaincy.
"They'd just beaten us in Australia and everyone expected us to be rolled over there. We won the first two Tests really well. I remember walking off the field in Durban and I remember thinking, I'm just going to walk 10 or 15 metres ahead of the boys, I'm going to stand on the boundary and look at the faces on the way off. For me as captain seeing the joy they got out of winning a test series like that, was probably my proudest moment."