Ponting backs In­dia & Eng­land to lift WC, asks ev­ery­one to be wary of Oz

The New Indian Express - - SPORT -

FOR­MER Aus­tralia cap­tain Ricky Ponting has tipped In­dia and Eng­land as favourites to win the World Cup on cur­rent form, but feels that his coun­try has a chance to de­fend the ti­tle. Ponting said with the im­pend­ing re­turn of sus­pended bats­men Steve Smith and David Warner, Aus­tralia can win the ODI show­piece, which be­gins on May 30 in Eng­land. Smith and Warner were banned for one year by ICC for their in­volve­ment in the in­fa­mous ball-tam­per­ing scan­dal in South Africa last year, and they will be­come el­i­gi­ble for in­ter­na­tional cricket again from March 29. “Ab­so­lutely,” Ponting was quoted as say­ing by Cricket Aus­tralia’s web­site cricket.com. au when he was asked if he thought Aus­tralia could win “In­dia and Eng­land are prob­a­bly the two stand­out teams right now. But if you add Warner and Smith back into that line-up, then I think that team looks as strong as any.” Aus­tralia have won just four of their re­cent 26 ODI con­tests but Ponting, who was on Fri­day named as new as­sis­tant coach to help out for­mer team­mate Justin Langer dur­ing the bigticket tour­na­ment, said the team will be a con­tender for the ti­tle yet again. “I am not just say­ing that be­cause I am one of the coaches. I ac­tu­ally said it when I was not around the group. Con­di­tions in Eng­land will suit our style of play. I think Aus­tralia will be the one of the main con­tenders for sure,” said the 44-year-old who is also a three-time World Cup win­ner. “With the in­clu­sion of two of the best one-day play­ers in the world who have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence, all of a sud­den the team starts look­ing a whole lot bet­ter. You will have guys who will han­dle a lot of pres­sure sit­u­a­tions bet­ter be­cause they have done it all be­fore,” Ponting said about Smith and Warner. Talk­ing about the con­cerns re­gard­ing Aus­tralia play­ers’ weak­ness against spin, Ponting ex­uded op­ti­mism with re­gards to their cur­rent bunch of play­ers, say­ing, “Look­ing at our line-up now, there are po­ten­tially a few bet­ter play­ers of spin in the mid­dle-or­der than what we had last year. The thing about English con­di­tions is the wick­ets should not spin too much through­out the World Cup.” The day the bans on Smith and Warner ex­pires will also see Aus­tralia take on Pak­istan in the fourth of their five ODIs, in Dubai. But ques­tion marks still hang over the duo’s re­turn to the play­ing XI, as the two have been re­cu­per­at­ing af­ter un­der­go­ing el­bow surg­eries.

Steve Smith (L) and David Warner will re­turn to Aus­tralia’s squad for World Cup

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