| Ponting: Open to ideas
Johannesburg: It was never going to be easy taking over from Steve Waugh, but Ricky Ponting is relishing the prospect of leading Australia into the World Cup.
The pressure on Ponting is already enormous and the Tasmanian knows that anything less than winning the World Cup will be considered a failure for the defending champions and tournament favourites.
But Ponting, who took over as Australia’s one-day captain a year ago when Waugh was unceremoniously sacked, triggering a public outcry, has not been fazed by the pressure of trying to emulate his predecessor.
“There’s not going to be any more expectation on us this time than any other time,” Ponting said. “It’s a huge tournament and it’d be great if we could win it but there’s a lot of hard work first.”
While the burden of trying to repeat their earlier successes could weigh down some teams, Ponting thinks Australia’s victory in 1999 has given them added confidence and a psychological edge over their rivals.
“We’ve got a very, very good team and we can sometimes have an aura about us so that other teams find it hard to play their best against us,” said Ponting who, at 28, is the youngest captain among the main contenders to win the World Cup.
“We’ve got the players here who’ve been through tough games in World Cups and know how to win it, so all those things add up.”
Ponting believes his leadership style has been strongly influenced by Waugh, but said he is now starting to impose his own character on the team.
“I think you learn a little bit from every captain you play under...so I probably think my captaincy style is a mix of all of those guys put together,” he said.
“It’s been over 12 months so hopefully there’s a bit of a stamp on the team now, if there wasn’t I’d be a bit concerned. Things are going well, the team is playing good cricket and the team seems to have responded well to me taking over as captain.
“I’ve always felt pretty confident. Even before I was made captain I always tried to think as a captain out on the field so nothing’s really changed a lot there.”
A keen follower of greyhound racing, Ponting is not frightened to gamble on the cricket field, but thinks the most important area for improvement is Australia’s consistency.
They lost two of their first three matches at the last World Cup and Ponting knows they cannot afford to make another slow start.
“I don’t think there’s any major theories or philosophies to peaking at the right time but we’d like to think we can be a lot more consistent in this World Cup than we were in the last one and play at a fairly high level all the way through,” he said.
“We’re very aggressive players and that is almost a gamble sometimes when you play that way but I don’t think I leave too many stones unturned with a lot of things. If I’ve got a gut feeling about something, I’ll make a field change or a bowling change and see what happens.”
Fast bowler Jason Gillespie thinks Ponting had the makings of a great leader.
“He’s definitely got what it takes, he’s a real natural,” Gillespie said.
“What makes him so good is that he’s always willing to listen to ideas but is also prepared to back his own judgement.
“You can go up to him during a match with an idea and if he thinks it’s good he’ll give it a go but he’s also strong enough to say no.”