'The WCup will be a better tournament with fewer teams'
The World Cup would be a better tournament if there are fewer teams, Australian captain Ricky Ponting said, ahead of his team's opening match against eleventh-ranked Zimbabwe in Ahmedabad on Monday.
"I have always been unsure if the World Cup or the Champions Trophy is the right place to be bringing in these teams," Ponting said, hours after New Zealand thrashed Kenya in a match that lasted less than 35 overs.
"I am not sure how much they learn, getting hammered the way they do. At the end of the day, the World Cup will probably be a better tournament if there are fewer teams."
He said though Australia is looking to extend its dream run of 29 unbeaten World Cup matches spread over 12 years and three tournaments, he did not think much of the team being dubbed the favourites ahead of the tournament.
"I don't think we are really worried at whether we are talked about as the favourites," he said.
"In 1999 and 2003, we were said to be the favourites, but certainly we weren't talked about as favorites in 2007. So, we will go out there and do our best.
Asked if Australia thought they could defend their trophy successfully, he said: "We are not to here to defend anything, but to win it again. We want to win the World Cup again."
Image: Ricky Ponting
Photographs: Getty Images
'Lee is the leader of this pack'
Analysing India's massive win against Bangladesh, Ponting said there are two ways to look at it.
"India scored 370 and their batsmen did really well in the opening phase of the match. But then Bangladesh came back and scored 283. So there are two ways you can see it. Either way, India have started the tournament well, and we also have to go and start the tournament well against Zimbabwe," he said.
He was also pleased with Bret Lee's return for the marquee event.
"He has been exceptional ever since he came back into the team during the Australian summer. He has added a few more tricks to than he used to have and has honed his skills really well. He has been bowling faster than he has ever been and he obviously is the leader of this pack."
Image: Brett Lee bowling in the nets
'We can chase if we keep them under 300'
Australia's opponents, Zimbabwe, on the other hand, will be glad even if they come out of this match with their heads held high.
"The objective is to go and play to the best of our abilities. The result will take care of itself," was how much Zimbabwe skipper Elton Chigumbura put it.
Coach Alan Butcher was even more candid.
"Let's be honest," he said. "If both sides play their best cricket, it is very likely that we will lose. If we manage to keep them under 300, then we have chased such totals in the past. But if they score 350 or 370 it will be very tough for us."
Asked if Zimbabwe would redeem itself, especially after another minnow, Kenya, was thrashed in no time by New Zealand, Chigumbura said: "Kenya are a bit different. They don't play Test cricket, but we do and we have played some decent one-day cricket. So it would be unfair to compare us to Kenya."
Zimbabwe have won six (including one each against India and Sri Lanka in the subcontinent) and lost 15 matches in 2010.
Image: Elton Chigumbura
'Spin will be our focus'
And the team will rely on its spinners to make a mark on the slow subcontinent tracks.
"Spin will be our focus," Butcher said.
"Because our spinners are our best bowlers. The Australians would know this well, but they still have to come out and counter it."
Asked if his reading was contrary to what the conditions say, as there was a lot of grass on the pitch, Butcher said there wasn't as much as it appears from the boundary.
"A lot of it is grass that has blown over the pitch."
On Zimbabwe's overall prospects in the tournament, he said: "If we play as well as we can, and if on the way one or two of the bigger teams slip up, then we will take advantage of that and try to advance."
Asked which Aussie player he is wary of ahead of the match, Butcher replied: "There are 11 of them."
Image: Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher (left) and captain Elton Chigumbura