Sydney, Dec 13: Australian captain Michael Clarke has expressed concern about his top order not firing against the opposition, and is particularly worried about opener Phillip Hughes lack of form.
“I am worried about every one of us. I can't be worried about the top order when the middle order didn't go very well either,” the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Clarke, as saying.
“We knew in these conditions that if you got a start you had to go on, and that is why I am so proud of Davey (David Warner) because we spoke at the start of the game that there was going to be seam and swing with grass on the wicket, so if you get in you had to cash in,” added Clarke.
Phillip Hughes, after failing to add to his overnight tally of 20, is shaping as the first casualty but by no means will he be the only incumbent whose future will be keenly discussed by John Inverarity's five-man panel?
Their hands, however, could be tied with the ongoing doubts over the fitness of Shane Watson, Shaun Marsh and Ryan Harris.
Hughes was a victim of the Chris Martin-Martin Guptill combination for the fourth time this series and has now been caught between wicketkeeper and gully 21 times in his 32 Test innings.
“He needs some runs, no doubt, but he's not the only one, though,” said Clarke.
“Let me make that very clear. It's not from lack of work. The poor bloke has been trying his backside off, training as hard as anyone. It's just unfortunate at the moment he's not having much luck,” added Clarke.
Having forged a reputation for being a strong supporter publicly of his teammates, Clarke, now also a selector, was far from emphatic when asked about the level of confidence he would have if he were to lead the same XI on Boxing Day.
“If the selectors decided this is the best 11 players to win the game on Boxing Day well, then yeah I would be [confident] but it's obviously something that's going to need to be discussed over the next few days,” he said.
Ponting's experience is highly valued by selectors, and he remains a vital wicket for his opponents.
“He's class and I think he's the rock in that middle order for the Australian team,” New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor said.
“If he scores runs then Australia will do well in the series against India, ” Taylor added.
But runs have been scarce in recent times for Ponting, who remains without a ton from his past 31 innings, stretching back nearly two years.
Fellow veteran Michael Hussey has also hit a lean patch, averaging less than 12 in seven innings since his stellar series in Sri Lanka.
Brad Haddin's half-centuries in Johannesburg and Brisbane proved pivotal in Australia's past two Test victories but, for the second time in Hobart, he was again guilty of undervaluing his wicket.
“It is not one person, our whole batting order needs to get better,” Clarke said.