Australia will be tough to beat, warns Ponting

pontingAustralia captain Ricky Ponting warned on Wednesday that in spite of some recent poor form the world champions will be “extremely hard to beat” at the upcoming cricket World Cup.

Speaking to reporters at Sydney airport as the team flew out to the Caribbean in search of a third straight World Cup victory, Ponting said he believed his team deserved to remain favourites.

“There’s been a bit of negativity around the team over the last couple of weeks, but I guess that’s to be expected when you’re not playing your absolute best and we certainly haven’t done that,” Ponting said.

The Australians go into the competition after suffering five straight one-day defeats — two against England and three against New Zealand.

But Ponting pointed out that the 3-0 whitewash by New Zealand in the recent Chappell-Hadlee trophy was achieved against a team weakened by injury.

“We’ve had up to six or seven of our top 11 players out as well, which probably hasn’t been reported that much over the last couple of weeks,” he said.

“I’m not that fussed at the moment that we’re going in having lost our last five games. That should be able to bring the best out in the players and this team generally lifts itself and plays its best cricket when there are some big games on the line, and it doesn’t get any bigger than a World Cup,” he explained.

“We’ve got some work to do, no doubt, and we’ve got some talking to do about our cricket as well. But we’ll get that done very early and I know that we’re going to be extremely hard to beat,” he warned.

“I know now that we’re drifting favourites but, once the cricket gets underway, hopefully you’ll see some cricket that’s going to mean that we still are the favourites going in,” he added.

Key players, including Ponting, vice-captain Adam Gilchrist, all-rounder Andrew Symonds and batsman Michael Clarke have returned to the team after missing the New Zealand series.

Although Symonds (shoulder) and record-breaking opener Matthew Hayden (toe) will miss the opening matches of the World Cup, Ponting insisted a full-strength Australia were still the team to beat in the West Indies. “I’m really happy with the squad of players that we’ve got,” he said.

Australia play Scotland in their opening match on March 14 in St Kitts and Nevis. But Ponting said the showdown on March 24 with South Africa, who recently took over Australia’s ranking as the top one-day side, would be a major test for his team.

“South Africa will be a big game and we’ve had some great games of one-day cricket against them over the last five or six years,” he said.

“In the last series over there, it came down to the last game and we got 430 and lost. So we’ve had some very good games of cricket against them,” he reminded.

“They’ve played some very good one-day cricket of late against Pakistan over there, so they’ll be pretty confident. But I know we match up well against any other team and that will be a good test for both teams,” he remarked.

Source:The News

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