Cricket has taken a "battering" after fixing scandal: Ponting

Chandigarh: Australian captain Ricky Ponting on Tuesday said cricket has taken a "battering" after spot-fixing allegations against Pakistan team came to light and the ICC should get to the bottom of the allegations quickly.

"No doubt the game has taken a battering as a result of these allegations ... the game can`t afford to have any sort of these allegations. That`s one thing the game can`t stand," Ponting said at a press conference after arriving here yesterday for the two-match Test series against India.

"It is important that ICC gets to the bottom of these allegations as quickly as possible. The sooner the issue is dealt with the better it will be for the game of cricket. If there are players who are involved in anything like that (alleged spot-fixing) then they need to be dealt in an appropriate manner," he said.

World cricket plunged into its deepest-ever crisis last month after spot-fixing allegations led to the suspension of three Pakistani players -- Test captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamir.

Ponting, however, was not in favour of banning the whole of Pakistan team, saying that will not solve the problem.

"We need to have a strong Pakistan team playing international cricket as well as for betterment of the game. To keep Pakistan out of international cricket or the World
Cup will have a bigger affect on everything," he said.

He said Australia and India need to play "best brand of cricket" to portray the game in good light amid the crisis the world cricket has been facing," he said.

"It is important to stand up and have some positive things being said about the game of cricket," Ponting said.

On Pakistan Cricket Board hitting back at the ICC and the England Cricket Board, Ponting refused comment saying that the investigations were going on.

Asked if any Aussie player had been approached by any bookie in the past, Ponting said, "The Australian team is very well educated on that side. We haven`t been approached by anyone. We are briefed very well by our team management from
time to time regarding the do`s and dont`s and what`s acceptable and what`s not acceptable."

Australia-India series have traditionally been stormy affairs in the past with on-field controversies grabbing headlines. Ponting said the rivalry has built over the years
and as long as players don`t cross the line, some banter only adds zing to the contests.

"(It`s OK) as long as players play in the right spirit. I think there have been intense moments, but that`s the way international cricket has been. As long as both sides
understand what`s right and what`s wrong and play in the right spirit of the game, things should be fine. And what`s happened in the past will be forgotten," Ponting said.

Ponting said Australia would look to reclaim the number one Test spot and a good performance against India in the two-match Test series which starts at Mohali on October 1 was an important step in that direction.

"Of course ranking does matter. At the moment, we are ranked number four and are playing against top ranked team in the world. We want to get back to the top of the table and we have a lot of things to do to make sure we reach there," he said.

"It`s a great challenge for us to come here. Certainly, we want to play against best teams and with this current group of players we are touring with we hope we can be very competitive over the next couple of weeks and months," he added.

The Australian skipper said the current tour to India in which they are also to play an ODI series should put his team in good shape ahead of the Ashes and the 2011 World Cup.

Ponting has come with an inexperienced bowling side here but he felt that the series would be a hard fought one.

"We`ve got what we got as far as our bowling attack is concerned. Certainly, there is hard work for the fast bowlers under the Indian conditions. But as I said we`ve got what we have got. There are inexperienced guys and guys who are working their way back from the injury. I am very excited with prospects of the quicker guys we have got.. Peter George and James Pattinson," he said.

Ponting was all praise for spinner Nathan Hauritz, saying "actually, he has developed into a very good international cricketer over the last 12 months. He was the
guy who came into the side with ODI background. We had to work hard to develop his Test bowling. He has played at Mumbai earlier and will relish playing under Indian conditions".

He admitted he does not have the finest memories in India as he has not enjoyed much personal success here but said the last Test series was closely fought and his team`s ODI record in this part of the world was "exceptional" and "we would like
to build on that".

"I have always enjoyed playing cricket in India, although I haven`t got as much success as I would have liked, but as a group we are excited at the upcoming series," he said.

On Yuvraj Singh`s exclusion from the Indian squad, Ponting said India still have good players in their middle-order batting line-up.

"Even without Yuvraj, India has some top batsmen in its batting list. Although Yuvraj is a very good player, but Indian selectors thought to give one of their younger guys
(Cheteshwar Pujara) an opportunity," he said.

"They (India) bowled well against us in the last series. Zaheer (Khan) and Ishant (Sharma) also had the reverse swing going," he said.

On the Mohali track, he said he has always enjoyed playing at the PCA stadium.

"It is one of the faster and bouncier tracks in India," he said and talked about the extended stay which the visitors have in the city this time ahead of the Mohali Test, which should give them enough time to get used to the conditions.

"It is one of my favourite grounds," he said.

With age catching up, Ponting said he has been focusing on getting into perfect shape with crucial tournaments including the Ashes and the 2011 World Cup coming up.