HE MAY be an elder statesman of Test cricket but former Australian captain Ricky Ponting said he is working harder than ever as he attempts to prolong his fabled career and achieve a measure of Ashes redemption.
Conditioned by an extensive winter gym regime, Ponting looked in fantastic shape at a Tasmania training session at Buderim yesterday in preparation for a three-day practice match against Victoria starting today.
With only Test cricket to concern him on the international stage after retiring from Australia's one-day team last season, our best-credentialed batsman behind Bradman is eyeing a home summer blockbuster date with new world No.1 Test nation South Africa before England hosts Australia in the 2013 Ashes.
Ponting was the first batsman in the nets yesterday and was among a small group of players involved in fielding drills after their teammates had brought a halt to a lengthy training session.
With his 38th birthday in December, the man affectionately known as Punter was emphatic when asked if he was pushing himself harder than ever before. He also said his appetite for success remained undiminished.
Along with beating England next year after losing three of the past four Ashes series - demoralising defeats that occurred on his watch - restoring Australia as Test cricket's No.1 nation is a major driving force for the legendary run machine.
"No doubt the older you get the harder you've got to work," he said.
"If I wasn't (still hungry) I wouldn't be playing.
"There's plenty of motivation for me. I want to make sure the Australian cricket team is doing whatever it can to get back to No.1 in the world, and I want to make sure that when I play for Tassie we're winning games and giving ourselves a chance to win titles."
Ponting's next big assignment is the opening Test against fierce rivals South Africa at the Gabba on November 9.
The South African's recently unseated England at the top of the Test rankings and Ponting said the three-match series would provide Australia with a good indication of where it was at.
Ponting said Australia was not far off being equipped to reclaim the No.1 Test ranking, provided it continued to develop younger players.