Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Unusual that this has to be said in reference to a person who has led Australia to two World Cup triumphs, but post Ashes, Ricky Ponting has to face a few uncomfortable questions. It was quite like that in his first public appearance since he rejoined the team after a finger injury, here on Friday.
The only player in history to have been part of three World Cup winning teams (1999, 2003 and 2007, the last two as captain) and to have lost three Ashes series as skipper was trying to draw strength from Australia's good ODI record in the sub-continent. "We've got a proud record in the 50-over format in this part of the world. It's something we can fall back on. We know these conditions and what it takes to do well here."
Ponting said that memories of being outplayed by England in the recent Test series hurt. "We didn't bat well in that series, I didn't either. Still, this is a different format and the negative thoughts are behind us. We are coming off a 6-1 ODI series win against a good England side and would like to carry on with that momentum. What happened before that doesn't matter."
He was not disagreeing that this is going to be a crucial outing for himself, that too in a place where he doesn't have a great individual record as a batsman. "Yes, it hasn't been the ideal preparation for me and the next few weeks are going to be very important for me. But I've done a lot of work at the gym and am in good physical shape. I just need to do some batting and fielding practice."
Ponting was looking forward to the practice games to get rid of whatever rust he might have gathered due to his forced absence from the game. "It was pretty frustrating, to not being there in the middle. But having been out for a month, I've come back fresh with some hunger."
It was strange but true that the captain of the three-time defending champions had to take questions on not being the favourites. "Who's the favourite?" Ponting retorted before adding that it's a question of getting better gradually. "Because of the length of the tournament, we have to maintain the intensity and progress steadily." Ponting reminded that in 2007, his team was coming to the WC with two ODI series defeats, against England and New Zealand. "Even last time, there were doubts. And we all know what happened after that. So, we don't care about being favourites or not."
Strong words yes, but Ponting and his team will have some work to do to live up to this carefree promise.