Coach Mickey Arthur believes Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey have a lot to offer to Australian cricket and they would be part of the playing XI for Boxing Day Test against India

Australia coach Mickey Arthur yesterday backed struggling senior batsmen Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey to retain their team places for the Boxing Day Test with India in Melbourne. Arthur said there were no plans to manage the Test exits of former skipper Ponting and Hussey after they both struggled for runs in Australia's humiliating seven-run loss to New Zealand in Hobart on Monday.

Mickey Arthur

Ponting, whose 158 Tests have seen him become the third greatest Test runscorer, and Hussey are fighting for their spots, but Arthur said their experience was vital in the transitional Australian team. "We are certainly not managing yet how they go out of the side and in my opinion they've still got big roles to play because we do need some experience within our middle order and they bring that experience that we need," he said.

Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting during a practice session at the Galle
International Stadium on August 29. Pic/AFP

"We haven't even come to any thought on how we manage any exit of any of those players. The key for us is to get them up firing for Australia come Boxing Day because they are key." Arthur backed Ponting, who turns 37 next week, to play in the showpiece Boxing Day Test against the second-ranked Indians.

"I think he should (bat on to Boxing Day). I've already had a chat with (selector) Rod Marsh and (captain) Michael Clarke and we're trying to give ourselves a bit of direction to Boxing Day," he said. "I think Ricky still fits firmly in that picture at the moment."

Tough times for Phil Hughes
But the picture did not look bright for under-fire opening batsman Phillip Hughes, who was again caught in the slips off Kiwi seamer Chris Martin's bowling for the fourth time in a row in the series against New Zealand.

Clarke said that Hughes may have to return to state cricket to rediscover his touch after his latest Test batting failure and Arthur was unsure whether Hughes would remain in the Australian side for Boxing Day.