Australia still World Cup favourites: Ponting

Published: Wednesday, February 28, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Australia are still favourites for the World Cup despite losing their last five one-day matches, captain Ricky Ponting said as the team prepared to fly out to the Caribbean on Wednesday.

Ponting said Australia's 15-man squad, bidding for an unprecedented third consecutive title in the West Indies, were capable of victory despite their recent slump in form against England and New Zealand.

''I can't see why not. I'm really happy with the squad of players that we've got,'' Ponting told reporters at Sydney airport.

''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.''

''But 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.''

Having looked unbeatable in the early stages of the tri-series competition in January against England and New Zealand, the Australians have been hit by injuries and a dramatic collapse in form.

They lost the tri-series finals 2-0 to England before they were swept aside 3-0 in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy series by New Zealand, the Kiwis achieving the second highest run-chase in one-day history to complete the whitewash.

Paceman Brett Lee was ruled out of the World Cup after damaging ankle ligaments in a practice fielding accident while key all-rounder Andrew Symonds will miss the opening matches after bicep surgery.

But despite far from ideal preparation, Ponting is looking to add another chapter to his side's enviable one-day record after their World Cup victories in England in 1999 and South Africa in 2003.

''It doesn't get any bigger than a World Cup so if we can't lift ourselves up and play some good cricket in this, we never will.

''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.''

Australia have been drawn in Group A alongside South Africa, Scotland and the Netherlands, and open their campaign against the Scots in St. Kitts on March 14.


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