Aussies ponder post-Ponting order

The Australians will be without Ricky Ponting for the first time in 17 years following his retirement.

Ricky Ponting. Picture: AFP

PERTH - With a three-test series against Sri Lanka starting next week, Australia have no time to dwell on what might have been after getting close to beating the best side in the world.

This was before being blown away at the end of a hard-fought series.

They will, of course, be without Ricky Ponting for the first time in 17 years after the former captain bowed out following his 168th test, which ended with a 309-run defeat and the loss of the series to South Africa in Perth.

"I just hope I've left the team in a better place than it was when I started," Ponting, struggling to contain his emotions, said at the conclusion of his final news conference as an international cricketer on Monday.

"I think every player that comes into international sport wants to say that they can walk away with the team being in a better place than it was, hopefully my impact and input on Australian cricket has left something behind."

Ponting's impact on cricket certainly goes beyond the 13,378 test runs he scored.

There can be no doubt that, through no fault of his own, the Australian cricket team is not in a better place than it was when he made his debut against the Sri Lankans in 1995.

The then 21-year-old had forced himself into the team by sheer weight of runs and batted behind Michael Slater, Mark Taylor, David Boon and Mark Waugh at number five.

Glenn McGrath took seven wickets and Shane Warne six as Australia won the match by an innings and 36 runs.

Australia clearly have some players in fine form - Michael Clarke was named Player of the Series against South Africa for his two brilliant double centuries and Mike Hussey also scored two centuries.

First and foremost, before the first test against Sri Lanka in Hobart next week, they must decide who replaces Ponting at number four in the batting line-up.

With time running out before the tour of India and back-to-back Ashes series next year, coach Mickey Arthur and captain Clarke have suggested a completely new look to the top order might be on the cards.

"We need a lot more consistency from our top four because we know at five and six we've got the best batsman in the world (Clarke) and Mr. Cricket in Hussey, we just need one-two-three and four to be giving us a really good platform," Arthur told reporters after the Perth test.

Clarke, the top ranked batsman in the ICC rankings, said he would be happy to consider moving up from number five.