Ponting enters debate

Ricky Ponting has well and truly entered the debate about whether the Australian cricket team's recent schedule has been too burdening by declaring that players were 'totally exhausted' on the Bangladesh tour.

Speaking after the second Test in Chittagong, where the tourists thrashed Bangladesh by an innings and 80 runs to sweep the series 2-0, Ponting revealed that he and his teammates were simply lacking energy during the first match in Dhaka, where the Asian side nearly caused a major upset.

And with the tour coming on the back of a three-Test series in South Africa played in as many weeks, the Australia captain said there simply wasn't enough time off for the side.

"We just didn't have a break, a two-day break between most of the Test matches that we played was nowhere enough," Ponting told The Australian.

"We saw the effects of that on day one in Dhaka. We had guys that, if we were fair dinkum, should not have played, they shouldn't have taken the field because they were totally exhausted and fatigued.

"We certainly do have to look at the amount of time between Tests. We played five in five weeks and in pretty extreme conditions here (in Bangladesh).

"That, as far as I'm concerned, is not acceptable. We had input into the program, but for the last few years we have been demanding at least three days between Test matches.

"One (extra) day doesn't sound a lot, but coming here if we had one more day before the first Test we would have been better off."

Ponting said that he was encouraged to see Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive James Sutherland in Bangladesh for the first encounter, and anticipates the issue of a heavy player workload will be looked at by the sporting body.

"The good thing is we had James Sutherland and a couple of the board directors in Dhaka for the start of that game, so they would have noticed it first-hand," he said.

"Hopefully, people above us will start to listen to what the players are saying.

But Sutherland defended the scheduling of the matches earlier in the week, including the eight days the players had between the last Test in South Africa and the first in Bangladesh, stating that 'senior players, team management and the ACA were all involved in making a judgment on what the best course of action was'.

He also said: ""We have a select team of support staff around the team that closely monitor the workload of the individual (players) and try and help them through, both in their rehab and their preparation for matches."

International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed said that while the agreed limit of matches for sides of 15 Tests and 30 one-day internationals is not as clear-cut as it sounds - Australia will have played 17 Tests and 35 ODIs in a 12-month period by the end of the month - there are lulls in the schedule.

"These guidelines need to be interpreted with a reasonable degree of flexibility from year to year, but in a review of the overall playing program teams rarely come close to this limit," Speed said.

"Australia, for example, will have just five Tests between the match in Chittagong and the end of the ICC World Cup in April 2007 and some of their Test players may be feeling distinctly under-utilised in that time."

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