Australian captain Ricky Ponting does not believe that there are any favourites to win the World Cup, but indicated that India and South Africa would be the teams to watch out for in the quadrennial extravaganza starting February 19.
"Who is the favourite right now, I am not really bothered because a number of teams have the ability to win the cup. In this sort of tournament there are a number of teams who can win. India and South Africa probably are the standout teams.
They are the powerhouses of international cricket. "Pakistan and New Zealand are never too far away in ICC events. Sri Lanka, in these conditions, are as good an ODI side in the game around," Ponting said. The Australian captain also felt that results in the lead-up to the World Cup don't count for much.
"I don't really care where we start the tournament. It's irrelevant. I think going into the last World Cup there was negativity around us. We lost the Commonwealth Bank series and lost to New Zealand. So there were a few doubts around our team but we went there and won the World Cup. I don't think it really matters too much what's happening in the lead-up." But he is pleased with the team's 6-1 thrashing of England in the recently-concluded seven-match ODI series. "We are pretty confident coming into the World Cup just beating a pretty good English side 6-1.
We are really in good shape and confident... momentum is around our team. "I don't care. Who the favourite is. I don't know whether there is such a thing around in tournament like this. Ponting hoped that his team would peak towards the latter stages of the tournament.
"It would be hard to maintain your intensity throughout the tournament because of its length and gap between some of the games. You can't take anything for granted. We will make sure that we progress nice and steady and make sure that we play our best cricket towards the latter part of the tournament," he said.
It is an accepted belief by now that Sachin Tendulkar, playing in his sixth and probably last World Cup, would give it his all to win the trophy, but Ponting hoped the script would turn differently. "There is no bigger stage than a World Cup for all of us to stand up and perform well.
Sachin wants to have a good tournament and I am sure Sachin wants to win the World Cup but hopefully, it's not." The schedule has come in for criticism but the long gaps between matches, Ponting felt, will give the injured players, which his team has in plenty at the moment, enough time to recover and attain 100 per cent match fitness.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe, currently in a rebuilding phase, have nothing to lose and would look to cause an upset or two, like they did against Australia in a warm-up tie during the T-20 World Cup in April last year. Chasing Zimbabwe's 173 for seven, Australians fell short by one run. Coached by former England batsman Alan Butcher, Zimbabwe have won just eight of 46 matches in seven appearances.
The team's last notable performance in the tournament was in 1999 when it beat India and South Africa to storm into the Super Six stage. Skippered by all-rounder Elton Chigumbura, Zimbabwe are hoping their tour of Bangladesh last December and inputs from West Indian legend and consultant Brain Lara would stand them in good stead during the tournament. The team has three seamers, as many specialist slow bowlers, and it would rely on them to make for the lack of firepower in fast bowling.