Sydney: Australian captain Michael Clarke said on Wednesday he was excited at the appointment of Mickey Arthur as new head coach while throwing his support behind the under-pressure Ricky Ponting.
Clarke returned to Sydney from South Africa following Australia tying their Test series with the Proteas to welcome Arthur, even though he is widely believed to have favoured former Test wicketkeeper Steve Rixon for the job.
"I'm stoked that we've got a coach," Clarke told reporters at the airport. "Mickey has done a fantastic job in the past with South Africa and we're just really excited and looking forward to working with him."
Arthur, a South African, is the first non-Australian to be handed the job and assumes the reins for the first Test against New Zealand in Brisbane on December 1.
Under a revamp to the way the team is run, Clarke now sits on the selection committee alongside Arthur and they have some immediate issues to resolve ahead of the showdown with the Black Caps. Central to this is the form of Ponting, with calls for the 36-year-old to either be dropped or quit, although his fighting 62 against South Africa on Sunday - his first knock of more than 50 in 15 innings - helped his cause.
After watching Ponting's match-turning knock, Clarke is expected to demand his predecessor as captain be selected to face New Zealand when he formally convenes with the new selectors - John Inverarity, Rod Marsh and Andy Bichel.
Clarke earlier told the Sydney Daily Telegraph that Ponting, who has been in the Australian set-up since 1995, scoring 12,557 runs in 156 Tests, had more to offer Australian cricket despite averaging just 20 in the past year.
"I've made it clear that Ricky Ponting has been a large part of the last bit of success we've had in Sri Lanka and South Africa, and I'd love to see that continue," Clarke said.
"Ricky has 39 Test hundreds and the best batting statistics apart from (Don) Bradman as an Australian player - if that doesn't prove something, I don't know what does. His work ethic, what he gives to the team off the field.... I'd love to see him making more runs like all of us, but he's been a great contributor to the team on and off the field. I'd love to see that continue."
As well as Ponting, there is concern over the fitness of Mitchell Johnson (toe), Shane Watson (hamstring), Ryan Harris (hip) and Shaun Marsh (back) heading into the New Zealand Test .Clarke said it was unclear what line-up he would take to the Gabba.
"There're obviously going to be some changes going into the first Test," he said. "I have a phone hook-up with the other selectors on Thursday and I'd imagine the team would be announced shortly after that conversation."