MELBOURNE, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Serial discard Phillip Hughes is Australia's best young batsman and just needs a bit of "love and stability" to blossom at test level, said former captain Ricky Ponting.
The 24-year-old scored an unbeaten 81 in the first innings of the Ashes opening test in England but was dropped for the rest of the series after failing in his next three turns at the crease.
The demotion was his third from three Ashes series, having struggled against England seamers in 2009 and at home in 2010-11.
"He is clearly our best young batsman in the country," Ponting told Australian Associated Press of Hughes, who cut his teeth as an opener but was punted down the order during the Ashes.
"The guy knows how to bat. He knows how to score runs. And he's just the sort of character that you love to have around your team.
"He would be somebody that I would give a spot in the order and let him go about making that his own ... if you give him a bit of love and a bit of stability around his game, I'm sure he'll come good."
Ponting retired from international cricket in a series-deciding loss against South Africa a year ago and has since watched Michael Clarke's side suffer a 4-0 trouncing away to India before a 3-0 capitulation in the Ashes series.
The blame for Australia's slide has largely been heaped on their struggling batsmen, and the jury remains out as to the make-up of the country's top six batters less than a month before the return Ashes series starts in Brisbane.
The hot-headed David Warner, who was exiled from Australia's Ashes campaign for the first two tests for punching England batsman Joe Root at a bar in the leadup, has belted consecutive tons in recent days in the domestic one-day tournament to put his hand up for selection.
Warner remains a polarising figure in Australia, where he has been in hot water for skipping club cricket duties and for engaging in profanity-laden rants against local journalists on Twitter.
Ponting, however, went in to bat for Warner and said he would have learned from his transgressions.
"To me, some of the things that have happened have just been almost tell-tale signs of someone just under extreme pressure," said the Tasmanian.
"The thing about Davey, he hasn't had a break from any cricket for about two years ... and it's such a high-pressurised environment, you need to be able to get away and let a bit of steam off here and there.
"Whenever he has tried to do that, he has got himself in a little bit of trouble.
"He would have learnt from that and it will make him a better person and hopefully a better cricketer."
(Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)