| Ponting: Confidence the key
Perth: Ricky Ponting said he was not surprised at the way his team steamrollered through the World Cup and said there was no reason why Australia could not make it three-in-a-row in 2007.
Australia ended the competition unbeaten after crushing India by 125 runs in Sunday’s final in Johannesburg.
“I thought we could (go undefeated),” Ponting told reporters at Perth airport on Tuesday. “I thought we had the talent. (Fast bowler) Glenn McGrath told everybody we would go through undefeated, I think.
“So it’s nice to have done that now... We played some great cricket through this campaign.”
An estimated crowd of 7,000 people welcomed the team home at a public reception in the Western Australia capital.
Ponting’s vice-captain Adam Gilchrist, a Western Australian, told the noisy crowd: “Our coach John Buchanan has already (been) saying that he thinks we can improve so we’re interested to know where.”
The World Cup victory was not only Australia’s second in a row and a record third in total — they won it in 1987 and 1999 — but also extended the side’s record winning streak to 17 one-day games.
Ponting said a match-winning 143 not out from fringe player Andrew Symonds in Australia’s Group A opener against Pakistan on February 11 underlined the squad’s depth.
Gilchrist also paid tribute to Symonds and said the Queenslander’s century was the turning point for Australia who had been struggling at 86 for four batting first.
“The talent that we’ve got in this side, it certainly makes my job a fair bit easier,” said Ponting, who hit 140 not out in the final.
“Whenever we were tested...one of this bunch put their hand up and made sure that we got over the line.”
Gilchrist, who smashed a brisk 57 in the final, said Australia’s path to glory in 2003 was smoother than four years ago under Steve Waugh.
“We were under fire right from the beginning and every game was do-or-die really (in 1999),” the wicketkeeper-batsman told reporters. “From that moment on (last month’s win against Pakistan) it’s been a lot smoother ride. There was a lot of adrenaline and excitement in 1999 but this time it felt a bit more controlled but certainly no less joyous occasion when we won it.”
Ponting also indicated that the players are focused on winning the World Cup for a record-breaking third time in a row. “There is no reason why we cannot win again in four years,” Ponting said. “I would like to have this group of guys around for the next one, if that was possible”.
Australian coach John Buchanan said that, while he had no doubt Australia’s side was the greatest at the moment, it was too difficult to answer whether it was the best of all time.
Buchanan offered no comfort to countries hoping they may be able to topple Australia in the next World Cup in the West Indies. “I think we can still improve in every area,” he said.
“There is time for us to do that now. Now we start on the next four years. Really, we can look across every aspect of our game. Every aspect can improve. If we couldn’t improve, we would just stagnate.”
Meanwhile, Ponting said that Test specialists Steve Waugh and Justin Langer will add enthusiasm to Australia’s squad for the four-Test tour of the West Indies starting next week. “There is no doubt that everyone here would like to have a few more days at least at home to see their families and friends,” he, however, told reporters.
The West Indies tour of 1999 was Waugh’s first series as Test captain and ended in a 2-2 draw.
“We probably went over there expecting to win pretty comfortably last time and we were really tested in a couple of games by (Brian) Lara,” Ponting said. “He really changed the course of the whole series last time.
Australia’s media on Tuesday hailed their World Cup-winning team as the best side ever to have played limited-overs cricket.“Best Ever” said the back-page headline in Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper, while national daily The Australian newspaper’s main sports headline said simply: “The Unbeatables.”