Ponting integral to Oz title defence

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Skipper Ricky Ponting is the rock the fraught Australian team must rally around it they are to win a third consecutive World Cup in the Caribbean.

The statistics point starkly to the galvanising effect Ponting has on the Australians' chances of remaining kings of one-day cricket.

In the 269 internationals 32-year-old Ponting has played, Australia have won 192 times or 71 percent. That crashes to just 49 percent success in the 53 games that he hasn't played.

Ponting missed the recent disastrous Chappell-Hadlee Trophy series when the listing Australians capitulated to a 3-0 defeat and unhinged team confidence and morale in the countdown to the World Cup.

He missed that trip because of back trouble that originated last November during the first Ashes Test against England in Brisbane.

He needed three cortisone injections just after Australia's tri-series loss to England to reduce inflammation caused by bone spurs in his spine.

Ponting is crucial to Australia's chances of turning around a bewildering change in fortunes after dominating England and New Zealand in the home tri-series, only to go down three times in a row to England in the final and lose their first home one-day series in 14 years.

In Ponting's absence, Australia's bowlers were battered by New Zealand's batsmen in the Chappell-Hadlee series, taking a total of just 13 wickets while conceding two of the three biggest run chases in one-day history -- 336 and 346 -- in crashing to a disastrous series sweep.

Ponting will be playing in his fourth World Cup. His unbeaten innings of 140 off 121 balls helped Australia beat India in the last World Cup final at the Wanderers in Johannesburg in 2003 and now he has amassed 22 ODI centuries with a scoring rate of just 79 runs per 100 balls.

He is Australia's greatest-ever run scorer in one-day cricket with 9,856 runs at 42.48 and lies seventh overall behind Sachin Tendulkar (14,783).


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