Post-Bingle, Clarke feels like a great weight has been taken off his shoulders: Ponting

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Wellington, Mar. 18 (ANI): Australian captain Ricky Ponting says his deputy Michael Clarke feels like a great weight has been taken off his shoulders after his decision to end his relationship with model Lara Bingle.

Ponting said he had no doubt Clarke could shrug off the distraction of his broken engagement and focus on cricket.

Clarke skipped the last three one-day internationals against the Black Caps last week to rush home to Sydney to see Bingle, who was fending off a series of negative headlines over a nude-photo scandal.

The celebrity couple ended their engagement last Friday and Clarke returned to the familiar environment of the Test squad in Wellington on Monday amid massive media interest.

"There's no doubt about that. I think that would have been a great weight off his shoulders, something I spoke with him about when he first arrived back with the side," Ponting said.

"He's loving being back here again. He's trained well and hard here the last couple of days. I know he stated yesterday he was excited to be back around the group and we are all excited to have him back around, too, being a vice-captain, experienced player. He's absolutely been himself and we are are looking forward to a big game from him," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Ponting, as saying.

"I only had to ask him a simple question - are you right to go? The fact he was back here when he was said to me straight away that he was ready to play cricket again," he added.

Australian assistant coach Justin Langer said Clarke's mental toughness would enable him to put his off-field dramas to one side.

"He's Australian vice-captain, they don't hand that out," Langer said. (ANI)

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