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Aim for the pinnacle

It’s a long, hard process and a leader requires quite a few factors to go his way. The level of talent in the side is critical and it is important to pick players who possess the right values. They need to be committed and selfless about personal records. Steve Waugh writes. Steve says

cricket Updated: Feb 15, 2011 10:06 IST
Steve Waugh

It’s a long, hard process and a leader requires quite a few factors to go his way. The level of talent in the side is critical and it is important to pick players who possess the right values. They need to be committed and selfless about personal records.

One-Day cricket often demands that a player sacrifices personal gains and makes contributions that are not recognised statistically. He might have to risk getting out trying to score quickly, run hard between wickets and work on his fielding. One also needs depth in the reserves to cover for injury, which means a big talent pool. It’s also important to get good support staff as they can help the team to gel as a compact unit.

Balancing act
For any captain, the World Cup is the pinnacle of the sport. The atmosphere, the challenge of playing against the top sides and the opportunity to test oneself against the best is something every captain would like to embrace. I played 325 ODIs but it was my performance at the Cups that form my most cherished memories.

Task cut out
As Ricky Ponting goes into the World Cup, it’s important that he and the team aspire to win instead of defending the Cup. Defending would distract the team as past achievements would come into the picture. It’s been a hard couple of months for Ponting with the Ashes’ loss and injury.

There’s no denying we’re a talented side and if we plan and train well, it’ll translate into success. Australia are lucky to be in the weaker side of the draw and if Ponting can get his team off to a successful start, they might get the momentum .

Road ahead
Australia come into the tournament with an incredible record of 27 successive wins over three World Cups. However, I am sure the side is not thinking of this record. It has to be acknowledged that a lot of teams are capable of beating each other and it is unlikely that anybody is going to have an all-win record. This World Cup is one of the most even, where at least five to six teams are capable of winning.

Australia are capable of winning the World Cup and are equally capable of not making the semifinals. There are plenty of form and injury issues but if Michael Clarke and Ponting fire and Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson get their rhythm, things will turn in their favour.

India and Sri Lanka start as favourites as they have quality spinners and will be playing in familiar conditions. For India, the biggest concern will be the billion pairs of eyes that would be watching the team’s every move. South Africa are also looking good and since they are not clear favourites, they might just spring a surprise.

Fitness training
It’s hard to decide how to go about fitness. Does one hold back or go full tilt? It's a balancing act that has seen some teams rest their top players. The team which has an outside chance are the West Indies. They have a good captain and some proven match-winners.

Bridging the gap
I have named a few captains who are capable of driving their team to the ultimate glory.

Ricky Ponting: He has been there thrice and has the experience. The team is looking good, coming off a good ODI campaign against England.

MS Dhoni: He has a very good team and has shown that he can handle pressure.

Darren Sammy: Sammy is a good and could take the team further than they are expected to go.