Cricbuzz Staff •
“I think Australia will be the one of the main contenders for sure” – Ponting. © Getty
Ricky Ponting’s name is synonymous with the folklore of 50-over World Cup, having led the national side to a couple of triumphs in 2003 and 2007. He was also a part of the World Cup winning side in 1999.
The batting legend who has been appointed as the assistant coach of the national side for the World Cup in England this year, sounded confident of Australia’s chances of defending the title. He added that when Steven Smith and David Warner would return to the set-up, the “team looks as strong as any” other side going around. The duo will be eligible to play again by March 29 this year.
“Absolutely,” Ponting said when asked if he thought Australia could defend the title. “India and England are probably the two standout teams right now, but if you add Warner and Smith back into that line-up then I think that team looks as strong as any.
“I am not just saying that because I am one of the coaches, I actually said it when I wasn’t around the group. Conditions in England will suit our style of play … I think Australia will be the one of the main contenders for sure,” he added.
Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, the mainstays of the pace attack, are also expected to return from their respective injuries. Ponting, however, pointed out that over a long tournament, there could be injury concerns and World Cups “rarely run” as per well-thought-out plans.
“We went to World Cups with Michael Bevan injured, Darren Lehmann suspended, Warney (Shane Warne) went home and Jason Gillespie went home. World Cups very rarely run exactly to plan. All the planning right now is we will have all those guys in the squad and if we do, it looks as good as any squad on paper.”
In the recent past, Australian batsmen have tended to struggle to rotate the strike and keep the scorecard ticking over in the middle overs against spin. Ponting, though, observed that spinners shouldn’t cause much of a concern in England. He again stressed upon the point that the inclusion of Smith and Warner would bring stability and experience to the side.
“The thing about English conditions is the wickets shouldn’t spin too much throughout the World Cup. Looking at our line-up now, there are potentially a few better players of spin in the middle order than what we had last year.
“With the inclusion of two of the best one-day players in the world who have a lot of experience, all of a sudden the team starts looking a whole lot better. You will have guys that will handle a lot of pressure situations better because they have done it all before,” he noted.
Australia have to finalise its 15-member World Cup squad by April 23. The group will be a part of a training camp at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane in May and are set to take on New Zealand in a slew of unofficial 50-over practice games.