Ahmedabad, March 23 (IANS) Ricky Ponting Wednesday pooh-poohed reports of his quitting Australia’s cricket captaincy and insisted that he intends to continue leading the team in Tests and ODIs after the World Cup.
Ponting told reporters on the eve of his side’s quarterfinal that it is a big challenge playing India in their home conditions and a capacity crowd egging them on at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera here.
“Tomorrow we are going to play in front of a packed house against a very good Indian team. It is a big game, a challenge for all of us, and I am sure the Indian team is also looking at it the same way. They are also anxious and nervous about what will be the outcome of tomorrow’s game,” he said.
On his captaincy, Ponting said: “Reports of my retiring after the World Cup are completely false. I have not contemplated retirement after the tournament. I am enjoying my cricket and these are exciting weeks for any international player. I have been focussing on preparing and training hard for tomorrow’s match.”
Ponting said Thursday’s match is going to be the toughest challenge for him as captain.
He said his boys have to play the “Australian” way if they wish to stay champions.
When it was pointed out that the Australian team hasn’t shown its typical aggression off the field, Ponting said: “A lot of such off-field chats haven’t taken place since (Glenn) McGrath and (Shane) Warne retired. I hope our cricket does the talking. I am really excited about the game and don’t think there is any need of any talking off the field. We
will do our talking tomorrow on the field with our cricketing skills.”
Ponting said that the team would try to capitalise on India’s vulnerability of batting collapses.
“We have noticed the crashes they had. I guess against South Africa they lost nine wickets for 29 runs. We are having a look at the records of Indian players against us and their career records. We know the sort of cricket that we have to play against India and have to make sure that we do that tomorrow,” he said.
Ponting is aware that his batsmen will have to be careful against India’s slow bowlers. He, in turn, warned the famed Indian batting line-up against the Australian pace battery led by veteran Brett Lee.
“There is no doubt we rely a lot on our fast bowlers for wickets. India are opposite and looking at their last game I think, they will start with Zaheer and one of their slow bowlers. And then bring back the fast bowlers during the ball change time and close the innings with the quicker bowlers as well,” he said.
“I know that we will be facing some 30 overs of spin bowling against India, but they will also face 30 overs of genuine pace of ours. Two contrasting ways to look at it, but these are the strengths of the two teams. If our fast bowlers bowl well, I think we have a good chance.”
The Australian skipper also said they are not taking Indian pace spearhead Zaheer lightly.
“We had a close look at him. After a short opening spell he has been held back until the 26th over when the ball gets old and starts reversing. And he has got wickets when the batsmen went after him in the later stages of the game,” said Ponting.
Asked whether this would be Sachin Tendulkar’s or Ponting’s last World Cup, the Australian captain said: “The way Sachin is playing it seems he may play another World Cup and hopefully if I start changing things for myself tomorrow I may give myself a chance of playing in another World Cup. But the World Cup is not about individuals and at this stage, you have to beat big teams if you have to win the World Cup.”
Ponting said he had watched the video of his majestic 140 not out off 121 balls in the 2003 final at least four to five times and it had given him the much-needed confidence coming into this game.
Asked what could be the decisive factor in the match, Ponting said: “It could be anything. A good shot, a good ball or a piece of great fielding. When you have two evenly matched teams such things do make the difference. Every ball will be crucial and you can’t afford to relax.”