Johannesburg: Australian captain Ricky Ponting put up a brave front, but it is clear the defending champion has no idea what to expect when it faces Pakistan in its opening World Cup clash next Tuesday. Ponting hoped the result would be the same as four years ago when the Australians, then led by Ponting's predecessor Steve Waugh, thrashed Pakistan by eight wickets in the 1999 World Cup final at Lord's.
The two teams have been drawn in the same preliminary league group this time and are due to face each other at the Wanderers on Tuesday in what is being billed as a key match of the tournament. "That'll be nice, yeah, that's what we are hoping for," Ponting said when reminded of the Lord's final. The world champion was planning a full-scale assault on Pakistan, playing what spin wizard Shane Warne referred to as "the only cricket we know - hard and aggressive". But it was evident the Australians were worried what the brilliant, but unpredictable, Pakistanis would throw at them.
Ponting conceded Tuesday's opener was utmost on the players' minds. "We can't think any further ahead," he said. "If we did, we would not be paying enough attention on what we need to do in our first game. "It's about as simple and as complicated as it gets at the moment, our focus is on Pakistan." The Australians will pay special attention to the Pakistani pace power in the form of captain Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar.
"These guys have a very strong bowling line-up. If conditions suit them they are very dangerous and can take early wickets," he said. "So we have to make sure that we can get through the new ball and hopefully take it from there." Ponting conceded Akhtar was the dangerman in the rival camp. "He's just a very, very dangerous bowler. We know that we need to get through those tough spells and hopefully he doesn't do too much damage," the Australian captain said. Ponting revealed his team had special plans for every Pakistani bowler and batsman.
"We will come up with some plans for their batsmen and bowlers and perform those plans on the day." But when asked what these plans were, Ponting just laughed, shrugged his shoulders and said, "No comment". Damien Martyn, who hit a patient 40 in a warm-up match on Monday, said he believed both Pakistan and India could not be taken lightly. "India and Pakistan are the danger teams to watch," he said.
One-day specialist Michael Bevan agreed that the primary focus had to be on Pakistan. "That's probably the best way to approach it," he said. "If you do more than that you put yourself under immense amount of pressure." Bevan too was keeping mum on Australia's strategy. "Yeah, we have a strategy but it would probably not be in our best interest to reveal it," he laughed.