Victories over Pak, India vital for defending title

Published: Thursday, January 30, 2003, 21:14 [IST]
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Perth: Australia views opening pool matches against Pakistan and India as vital to the team's chances of defending the World Cup in southern Africa, vice-captain Adam Gilchrist said on Thursday. The Australians, winners of the 1999 tournament in England, open against Pakistan at The Wanderers, Johannesburg on February 11 and face India four days later in Centurion.

"If we can win them I think there's probably a few lighter games after that," Gilchrist said before leaving for South Africa. "We would be able to rest players or make sure everyone freshens up through that period of time." Australia's players have just under two weeks to fine-tune their preparations. Gilchrist, who won the Allan Border Medal on Tuesday as Australia's cricketer-of-the- year, said there had been distractions in the lead up to cricket's showpiece.

They included injuries to key players, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie and Michael Bevan and pressure to move games from politically-sensitive Zimbabwe over security concerns. "But now we can just get there and hone in on the actual title chase," Gilchrist said. He said he was not feeling any additional pressure, despite Australia going in as favourites. "There hasn't been a huge focus on the expectations of the team and what we're hoping to achieve there," he said.

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