Mumbai: Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting is very keen to put his best foot forward both as skipper and player for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, a tournament in which he took part only for a while in its inaugural edition in 2008.
"Obviously, I am very excited to be back in IPL. I said when I had finished playing last time, hopefully I will be able to come back and play again. The way things have worked out - with my retirement from international cricket and finishing off the domestic season for Tasmania and playing well - have given me the opportunity to be back here," said the Aussie at his first media conference here on Sunday.
He said retirement from the hectic international schedule has given him time to concentrate on T20 leagues. "The reason I did not come back to IPL 2 and 3 was because I had too much international cricket on at that time. And now that I don't have international cricket, the opportunities for me to play in these domestic tournaments are really opening up.
"I am going to be here for a couple of months and then have a two-month stint at Surrey and another month or five weeks at the Caribbean Premier League as well. Now my whole focus is to make sure that I am the best player and best leader for Mumbai Indians for the next two months. Luckily I had the chance to captain Australia for a long time. I have got a really good idea of what makes good teams successful. And they are all the things I will be bringing to the table in Mumbai," said Ponting.
Ponting is very excited to be playing alongside Sachin Tendulkar, against whom he has played many times at the international level. "To be captain of any franchise is exciting but to think that I am the captain of Mumbai Indians and I will be playing alongside Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh, some of the guys I have had great battles over the years, as well as some of my Australian team-mates and some of the young local Indian talent I have come across in the last couple of days is great.
"With Mumbai now, we have John Wright, a successful ex-India coach, and Anil Kumble, a successful Indian captain and a very very good Indian player and leader. Obviously me coming into the set up, we have put together a really strong leadership group, if you like," said Ponting.
Ponting also assured that the infamous "Monekygate" episode won't have an effect on the Mumbai Indians dressing room as he gears up to lead Mumbai Indians in the sixth edition of IPL. "No, no. We are all friends for the next few months. That's one thing I have made very clear to the guys already. Sachin and Harbhajan have not been around the team yet. We will meet up with those guys. We are one, the Mumbai Indians are one," said Ponting.
"I want to play well and captain the side well. I will not leave any stone unturned as far as preparation of team is concerned and ensure that everything we do is for one another," Ponting, who has retired from international cricket, said.
Ponting and MI team's chief mentor Anil Kumble were the rival captains in the controversy-marred Sydney Test of January 2008 when Australian team member Andrew Symonds accused India's Harbhajan Singh, who is an MI player now, of racial abuse. The Australians complained that Harbhajan allegedly called Symonds a "monkey" during day three of the second Test of the 2007-08 controversy-marred series.
ICC match referee for the series, Mike Procter, slapped a three-Test ban on Harbhajan following a hearing but the decision was overturned when the Indian offspinner appealed against the decision.