Hobart - Australia coach Mickey Arthur on Tuesday 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.
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.
"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."
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.
"By his own admission there is a bit of technical work that he needs to do but again a very good young cricketer," Arthur said.
"Whether that's enough for him to play on Boxing Day I'm not sure. That will be a discussion we will have in a couple of days' time."
Arthur said injured allrounder Shane Watson, who missed both Tests against New Zealand, would be assessed well before the MCG Test to "determine the balance of the team".
"We've got to come to a point now where we make a decision on where Shane's going to bat in the order and how many overs we expect from him so there can be no more debate around the issue," he said.
Arthur, who is South African, said Australia's batsmen would be working hard to improve their techniques against the swinging ball after the New Zealand Test.
"The swinging ball again was something that exposed us a little bit and that's going to be top of the agenda to work on before the Boxing Day Test," he said.
"I think if we can get a couple of extra days into our batters, just sharpen them up and their techniques, I think that will be invaluable ahead of what is a massive series for Australia."