Ponting close to peak form
Cape Town - Australia's most prolific batsman, Ricky Ponting, says he is in peak condition and working hard in preparation for the first of two Tests against South Africa starting in Cape Town on Wednesday.
"I honestly don't think I'm far away from my best," Ponting said.
"I had one of my best training sessions in Potchefstroom last week and it's the best I've batted in a game, or out of a game, for a couple of years."
At 36, Ponting has scored 12 487 Test runs, at an average of 53. He needs 343 runs to overtake Rahul Dravid and move into second place behind the leading run-scorer in the world, Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar.
Ponting admitted he had left a couple of opportunities slip past him on Australia's recent tour of Sri Lanka, when he twice failed to convert his 40-odd runs into centuries.
"At the end of the day, we're judged on our performances out in the middle," he said.
"If you convert those scores into big scores, not only do you feel a lot better about yourself, but you also get a few other people off your back."
Taking over from Steve Waugh in 2004, Ponting captained Australia in 77 Tests - 48 of which were victorious outings for his team, the most for any captain.
He handed over the reins to Michael Clarke after Australia's quarter-final exit from this year's cricket World Cup, but he said it had not been an easy choice to make.
"It's one of the best sporting jobs in the world probably," he said of the Australian captaincy.
"It was a very tough decision for me to make just to stand down and I thought of all different scenarios, but the timing was right to give Michael a good run at it before the next Ashes series and the next World Cup.
"We're on the right track to getting our cricket back to where we want it to be and over the next couple of weeks we'll have a much clearer picture of where we're at in cricketing terms."
After batting at number three for most of his career, Ponting was demoted down the order, but he said he still prepared for each game in exactly the same way.
"I like to be in the nets early and face our bowlers with the new balls, which is what I've done for the 15 years of my career.
"I've always prided myself on my work ethic and I'll be in the nets giving it as much as anybody and hopefully the rewards will come for me."