Experienced duo Shane Watson (hamstring) and Mitchell Johnson (foot) as well as Shaun Marsh (back), Ryan Harris (hip) and new sensation Patrick Cummins (heel) were all officially scratched from the Brisbane Test starting on Thursday.
All five were likely selections if fit, their absence opening the door for the likes of NSW opener David Warner to make his Test debut as Watson’s replacement.
Ponting said the situation was not unique in the high-workload world of international cricket, but backed the selectors to come up with a squad capable of beating the Black Caps.
“This is obviously a testing time for the depth of Australian cricket,” Ponting told reporters. “A lot of the guys that’ll probably be considered have been in and around our squad because we’ve had our fair share of guys, our fast bowlers especially, have been injured for the last little bit.
“Obviously, with the A-game going on at the moment and the Shield game just starting out the back here, I’m sure selectors will be looking long and hard at a lot of those players playing in those games.
“By the time they’re ready to announce the squad for Brisbane, I’m sure they’ll have a very competitive XI come Thursday.”
Batting for Australia A on Friday, Warner plundered a typically rapid-fire 65 against the Kiwis to further push his claims.
“It’s a childhood dream,” Warner said of a possible Test debut. “With all the … people pigeonholing me as a Twenty20 player, I always said that when I got the opportunity to play Shield cricket for NSW, I could show I can score runs and bat time.
“I have put the numbers on the board and that’s all I can control.”
His state teammate Trent Copeland should regain his Australian spot in a new-look pace attack, while former Test quick Ben Hilfenhaus is the likely frontrunner for the other fast bowling berth ahead of Australia A teammates Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Ben Cutting.
Pattinson claimed four wickets against the Kiwis and Starc three, but the tourists still plundered 423 runs in their first innings to suggest selectors will opt for Hilfenhaus’ experience at the Gabba.
Captain Michael Clarke and the rest of the selection panel will announce their squad for the Brisbane Test on Saturday, with all five of the injured players to be assessed next week ahead of the second Test against the Kiwis starting in Hobart on December 9.
Both Cummins and Watson said the decisions to rule them out were precautionary, but also the best thing to do ahead of a six-Test summer.
“Even playing as a batsman, I could still re-injure it, so it meant that it would really put my summer back in a big way if I did re-injure it,” Watson said. “I suppose it’s more so taking my medicine. It’s probably going to put me out for a week and not pushing it too much to mean that I have more chance of reinjuring it.”
Teenage quick Cummins, who took six wickets in the second innings of his debut Test against South Africa in Johannesburg, was similarly philosophical.
“It’s not only about this game – it’s looking forward to the summer,” the 18-year-old said. “They’re really looking to manage me. Six Tests was always going to be a battle.”