Australia may not be entertaining hopes of returning to top form as a Test unit in the near future, especially after losing five of their last seven games. But former South African coach Micky Arthur is optimistic about the team's progression back to the top of the chart in as little as 18 months.
Arthur believes that if the Australian side is allowed to settle and younger, exuberant players are nutured, the side can turn around its fortunes in a manner akin to what South Africa accomplished in 2006.
Arthur, who is now the Western Australia coach, said if the selectors showed vision, resisted constant changes and retained injured skipper Ricky Ponting at No.3, Australia can become
the No.1 team soon.
"As long as Ricky is the best man at No.3 - and I think he is - he should bat there. Yes, he's getting on a bit, but the time he leaves the No.3 position might be the time for him to move on.
I don't think that time is right, yet. I still think there is a little way to go for Ricky Ponting in Test
cricket," Arthur, who guided the Proteas to the top ranking in 2005, was quoted as saying by a leading Australian newspaper.
Arthur said Australia's selectors must demonstrate a little gumption in picking a unit for the future and then sticking with it, as South Africa had done.
"I think if they deem now is the right time to start rebuilding then they can realistically be a force in 18 months and be where they need to be," Arthur said.
Arthur who currently coaches Western Australia, feels that Shaun Marsh from his team, is a promsing new prospect and should be granted a permanent place in the team. Arthur also pointed out that it is Ponting under whose captaincy Australia can steer through a turbulent period before handing over to vice-captain Michael Clarke.
"What Australia needs now is a strong leader," Arthur said. "If they are going to play some
youngsters in their batting group then they need experience and Ricky is the man who must lead them."
Ponting may feel encouraged that he is getting soem support after the horse-whipping he has received from the Australian media in recent times.