Arthur backing for Ponting
Australia coach Mickey Arthur is adamant Ricky Ponting has the unanimous backing of selectors and will not be axed this summer.
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Ponting has mustered just 20 runs in the two Tests against South Africa but made the cut for the final clash with the Proteas in Perth starting on Friday.
After smashing 355 runs in Sheffield Shield cricket at an average of 118, the former Test captain's form has dipped steeply on the international stage.
With a three-match series against Sri Lanka to come in December followed by a trip to India for a four-Test contest beginning in late February, Arthur said Ponting remains a key part of the set-up.
But what will be most reassuring for the under-siege veteran was Arthur's indication that he wanted the right-hander for the 2013 Ashes tour in June.
"At the moment Ricky Ponting has the unanimous backing of the selection panel...we want Ricky Ponting to go to the Ashes, there is no doubt about that," Arthur said.
"We want Ricky Ponting certainly around for the next six months.
"By his own admission Perth (against South Africa) is a big Test for him, but Ricky's prepared brilliantly.
"He will leave no stone unturned in his preparation going into Perth and I'm backing him for a big score."
While Ponting's spot is secure for the foreseeable future, Rob Quiney lost his place at number three after a score of nine in the opening Brisbane Test followed by a pair in Adelaide.
A 14-man extended squad for the Perth clash was named on Monday that saw recovered vice-captain Shane Watson replace Quiney, while pace trio Mitchell Johnson, John Hastings and Josh Hazlewood will battle with Brisbane and Adelaide 12th man Mitchell Starc for the injured James Pattinson's position.
There may be room for another one of those four speedsters to bowl at the WACA, with pacemen Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus both pulling up sore following the gruelling second Test draw with South Africa.
Arthur stressed Quiney, who was voted the country's best domestic player last season, would wear the baggy green again.
"Rob Quiney's Test career is definitely not over," Arthur said.
"He obviously didn't get the runs he wanted but for everything else he's been outstanding.
"The message to him is to simply keep knocking on the door because you never know what's around the corner and if he keeps his name up in lights, he'll certainly get another crack at it."
Quiney will have his hands full in competing for a recall, with Arthur suggesting Redbacks opener Phil Hughes and Queensland left-hander Usman Khawaja - both in outstanding Sheffield Shield form - were at the head of the queue.
"Quiney is right up there but you can't look past Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja," Arthur said.
"They are young players that have had a taste of international cricket and when called up are ready to step into the breach."
Arthur is entertaining the idea of omitting spinner Nathan Lyon and utilising a four-man pace attack in Perth.
"It gives us an option to play four quicks, but the conditions will determine which way we go on that one," he said.