Ponting backs Hauritz
Melbourne - Test captain Ricky Ponting on Monday backed Nathan Hauritz as Australia's number one spinner for the coming Indian tour and the home Ashes series against England.
The off-spinner, who has snared 57 wickets at 31.82 in 15 Tests, is returning to full fitness after a foot injury forced him home during Australia's one-day series in England in June.
Hauritz, 29, has resumed bowling in training ahead of October's two-Test series against India in Mohali and Bangalore.
"I've spoken a bit to Nathan over the last couple of weeks," Ponting told reporters at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
"He has started running again which is a good sign, without pain in his foot. He started bowling again last week.
"I'll be doing a lot of work with him over the next few weeks. I'll be facing a lot of him (in the nets), considering we've got (England's Graeme) Swann and Harbhajan (India's Harbhajan Singh) to confront over the next few months.
"Is he a lock-in? I think so. What he's done over the last 12 or 18 months as our number one spinner has been of the highest quality.
"With him back to full fitness I think he'll get himself back into the side again."
Hauritz will face competition from his New South Wales teammate, legspinner Steve Smith.
Smith, 21, made his debut in the two-Test series against Pakistan in England last month, taking a combined 3-82 and smashing 77 off 100 balls at Headingley.
Ponting said Australia might consider playing Hauritz and Smith as a spin duo on the Adelaide and Sydney wickets in the Ashes series.
"Steven came along really well in the two Tests that he played in the UK," Ponting said.
"We saw towards the end of the Headingley Test his ability with the bat and also his willingness to be aggressive with the ball.
"That's not an easy thing to do for a young leg-spinner to maintain that aggression.
"He's a work in progress but the more games that he can play is obviously going to be better for him and he'll learn all the time.
"With (all-rounder) Shane Watson in our side it gives us the flexibility to be able to look at playing two spinners."
Ponting also backed under-performing middle order batsman Marcus North but admitted the West Australian left-hander needed to improve after amassing just 36 runs in the two Tests against Pakistan.
Chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch has said North will retain his place in the Australian team for the two Tests in India despite being dismissed 12 times in single figures in his 28 Test innings.