Innovation, in fact, has become the name of the game as the Australian cricketers strive to excel and outwit their very own performances. With the focus of the cricketing world slowly turning towards the World Cup in South Africa, the Australians would undoubtedly be the cynosure of all eyes leading up to the mega event.
"We've been known as the number one team in both forms of the game in the last few years," Australian One-day skipper Ricky Ponting told Thatscricket.com in an exclusive interview at the Karnataka State Cricket Association Stadium on Tuesday.
"But, if we stay there and be happy with that the other teams will catch up. So, we have to keep improving and stay a step ahead of the field. We tend to play better cricket when we are enjoying ourselves. That's our philosophy," Ponting, who was in Bangalore to conduct the two-day coaching clinic organised by Parle and Procam International, said.
Excerpts of the interview:
Can you tell us something about your early years in cricket?
I started cricket as everybody else, playing in the back yard when I was a little boy and then growing up with friends we always used to play back yard cricket. Then I was off to a primary school, I went to a school called Mowbray primary school and started playing competitive cricket in the year five. From there I went to Brooks High School to my club, which is Mowbray Cricket Club. I went to the cricket academy and from there graduated to playing for Australia after playing first class cricket.
How did it feel when you first went out to play for Australia?
It was one of the best things ever. Walking out on my Test debut was something very special and lucky enough, I made a few runs in that innings and it was like a dream come true. All I wanted to do when I was a young kid was to play cricket for Australia. I have had the chance, luckily, over the last few years, so that's been good fun.
At this point of time, how would you assess your career?
It has been great. My batting has been a little inconsistent over the years, but that's one thing I'll hopefully improve. I'm still relatively young, I'm only 27 and so I still have a lot of cricket ahead of me and in the next three years I can become a more consistent player.
What would be the low and high points in your career so far?
Looking back to both World Cups. In the 1996 World Cup, we made the final and lost that to Sri Lanka, which was very, very disappointing. The highlight would be winning the 1999 World Cup - just an amazing experience. They probably are the low points and high points.
As captain of the Australian One-day team what is your vision for your team?
Just to keep improving. We have to keep improving all the time. We've been known as the number one team in both forms of the game in the last few years. But, if we stay there and be happy with that the other teams will catch up. So, we have to keep improving and stay a step ahead of the field.
As the world's best team, do you face any pressure before a game?
Not at all. We just go out to win games of cricket, enjoy ourselves and have a bit of fun. We tend to play better cricket when we are enjoying ourselves. That's our philosophy.
The Australians seem to innovate in every aspect of the game, including training, any specific reason behind it?
It's just basically trying to find new ways to improve. That's what it's all about. We have changed our training around a lot in the last few years just to challenge ourselves to try and make ourselves better. I guess, if we don't try some of these innovative ideas, we never know what it is- that's what we are doing.
And what about inputs from other sports in training?
Just adds a bit of excitement to training as well. If we play cricket and train for cricket every single day then life will get a bit boring. We try and change things a little bit. We have soccer balls, we have baseball gloves and can throw the baseball around for awhile, we also got Australian rules football and some rugby balls in the kit as well so that we can just get out and do things a little bit different. That'll add more excitement to our training.
Which is your favourite venue for playing?
Outside Australia, my favourite venues are Cape Town (South Africa) and London. Lord's is obviously a great place to play cricket and Oval as well as being in London, they are two nice places to play. Cape Town is one of the most beautiful grounds in the world. They two are most special and Barbados is right up there too.
Which is your favourite holiday spot?
I have just come back from a honeymoon about two weeks ago. We went to Mauritius, which was absolutely beautiful and we really enjoyed it there. We went to Monte Carlo (South of France) as well bit early in the year, which was great and a very nice place. I would like to get back there anytime I possibly could. That would be the two most special places I have been to.
Was it a tough decision to undergo a surgery soon after your wedding?
That's something pretty much that I had to do. I had a stress fracture on my foot that wasn't healing. I decided to have an operation to get a steel pin put in the stress fracture to basically guarantee that I wouldn't break half way through the World Cup programme.
What is your favourite food?
I enjoy most sorts of food. I love Japanese food, I love Italian food, I love Mexican food, I don't mind Indian food - I do eat Indian food now and then though I don't eat that all that often.
Recently married, is your wife a sportsperson too?
My wife Riana played a lot of netball when she was a little bit younger. She was actually a very good netball player. She is only 23 now and she is studying Law. She doesn't have much time to play any sport anymore. She is usually travelling with me or studying these days. She is very sportive, she goes to the gym most times and likes being fairly active. We live a good life together.