Zimbabwe's cricket rebels have been given a three-week deadline by their cricket chiefs in which to withdraw a demand for the reinstatement of captain Heath Streak and to make themselves available for selection in future matches and tours.
Australia's tour next month is shaping up as a farce unless a resolution is found.
"It would be disappointing for the player group to go there and play a second- or third-string side," Ponting said in Sydney on Monday. "We'll keep a close eye on it."
Asked if sub-standard opposition would be grounds for Australia to withdraw, Ponting said: "That would be a decision that would be made by Cricket Australia.
"I think that will be left out of our hands. When you look ahead and think about it, there probably are some tough decisions that need to be made there."
Australia will tour because the International Cricket Council decrees that security concerns are the only legitimate reason for the abandonment of any tour.
Ponting said Australia would show no mercy if they played a Zimbabwean team full of unproven youngsters.
"All we can do is play the side that's put out on the park and the Australian team is not really noted for going easy on any opposition," Ponting said.
"As we saw with the Bangladesh Test matches here (Sydney) last year, we try to win the games and win them as well as we can. That's every Test match we play in. That will be exactly the same when we go to Zimbabwe."
The 15 dissident players, although advised to soften their stance by their lawyer, seem hell bent on continuing the stand-off over the removal of Streak in particular.
The Australians are scheduled to play their first match against Zimbabwe A on May 17.