Ponting rules out Ashes return
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has ruled out the possibility of making a stunning Ashes return after agreeing to join Surrey.
Surrey announced on Thursday morning that Ponting, who retired from international cricket in December, would join them on a two-month deal from June.
The 38-year-old will initially cover the absence of captain Graeme Smith, while he is with South Africa at the Champions Trophy, for up to four LV= County Championship First Division games.
Those matches will come at the same time as Australia make their preparations for the Ashes, which begin at Trent Bridge on July 10.
With Australia set to take an inexperienced batting line-up into the five-match series, after Mike Hussey also retired during the winter, Ponting's know-how could be missed.
And while the veteran of 168 Tests said it would be "strange" to be watching this summer's Ashes after leading Australia's past two failed tours to England, he confirmed he was committed to Surrey only.
"It will be a very strange experience," Ponting told Surrey's website.
"At some stages only a few hundred miles, or a couple of hours, away there will be a Test match going on between Australia and England and I won't be a part of it
"I've had an opportunities to think through those scenarios since I've been retired from international cricket. I think just to be in the country while a series like that is happening will be a lot of fun.
"Once I'm there I'll be absolutely 100 per cent dedicated to making sure I do the best I can by Surrey County Cricket Club.
"I'll do my best to score as many runs as I can and I'll do my best to win as many games as I can."
Ponting admitted he thought he might never play in England again after leaving the international scene as the second highest Test and one-day international runscorer of all time at the end of last year.
"I must to admit I thought those days might be over considering I wasn't going to be good enough to make it on the Ashes tour this year," said Ponting, whose only previous county experience was during a brief stint with Somerset in 2004.
"I'm very excited to go back."
England and Surrey batsman Kevin Pietersen welcomed Ponting's deal, which will see him remain for the group stage of the Friends Life t20 in July.
That could mean Surrey fields an all-star line-up of Smith, Ponting and Pietersen - most likely against Middlesex on July 5 - as they look to return to finals day after a seven-year absence.
Pietersen wrote on Twitter: "Smith and now Ponting, joining us at Surrey this season.. Wowza!! Hope I get to bat with both of them.. £fireworks".
Surrey team director Chris Adams, who made the approach for Ponting himself, labelled the Tasmanian's arrival as a "declaration of intent" ahead of the new season.
Surrey have endured a lean spell in recent times but first revealed their ambition in November when Smith agreed to captain them for the next three seasons.
Ponting's arrival is a second major coup and is set to make them favourites to lift the First Division for the first time since 2002.
"We are very, very pleased. Thrilled, excited," Adams said.
"He is a world-class player and world-class performer. He will bring leadership qualities to the group."
Adams revealed Ponting could also lead Surrey in Smith's absence, although that decision would be made by the South Africa skipper.
"It is up to him (Smith) to identify from the squad that we've got who he sees as being the natural leaders and natural captain material to follow him," he said.
"If he feels strongly that Ricky Ponting can take up the reins while he is away then we 'll deal with that. Certainly it is not something that I've discussed with Ricky or his agent yet."
Since his international retirement Ponting has continued to play domestic cricket in Australia for Tasmania.
He has been in good recent form scoring an unbeaten double century against New South Wales earlier this month before hitting 95 in a one-day game against Western Australia on Tuesday.
Ponting was fined 250 Australian dollars following that match after pleading guilty to throwing his bat after he was run out five runs short of his century.