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Australia aiming for Cup hat-trick

Australia's cricketers are focused on winning the World Cup for a record-breaking third time in a row, Ricky Ponting said on Tuesday as his triumphant team returned home.

india Updated: Mar 25, 2003 14:17 IST

Thousands of fans paid homage to Australia's triumphant World Cup cricketers as they arrived home from South Africa on Tuesday after winning the one-day crown for the third time.

Under a sunny autumn sky, the 15 players were feted in Forrest Place, in the heart of the Western Australian capital, by a colorful crowd estimated by police at about 5,000.

Thunderous cheering echoed across the city as Australian captain Ricky Ponting stepped forward on to a stage to raise the trophy aloft.

Tired, but elated, the players waved back to the crowd in the only public appearance to be made by the team in Australia before they go into training for a four-Test tour of the West Indies.

Western Australian Premier Geoff Gallop told the team they were the pride of Australia after glittering green and gold streamers rained down on the squad.

There were joyous reunions with wives and families for the three Western Australian members of the side -- vice-captain Adam Gilchrist, Damien Martyn and Brad Hogg.

All three were in the eleven which overwhelmed India by 125 runs in the Sunday final in Johannesburg.

The Australians were unbeaten in 11 matches in South Africa and Zimbabwe during the tournament.

Earlier, when the side arrived at Perth international airport, Ponting made an indirect reference to Australia's involvement in the war on Iraq.

"We were aware of what was happening in the world around us -- there is no doubt about that," he said.

"The thing that we tried to do the other day in the final was to win the game and bring a smile to a lot of Australian faces who are obviously doing it a lot tougher than we and a lot of others are at the moment.

"We didn't actually sit down and talk about it as a group, but I am sure that, at the end of the day, we have made a lot of people happy and changed the way they have been thinking about things over the past couple of weeks."

Ponting said he believed Australia could win the World Cup for a record-breaking third time in a row in 2007.

"There is no reason why we cannot win again in four years," Ponting said.

Sunday's triumph followed an overwhelming victory over Pakistan in the final in England four years earlier.

Australia's other World Cup victory was against England in the 1987 final in Calcutta.

"I would like to have this group of guys around for the next one, if that was possible," said Ponting, who hit a memorable 140 not out against India in the showdown.

"What we have seen in this tournament is that we have really had our depth tested.

"All-rounder Shane Watson went out with injury just before the tournament, fast bowler Jason Gillespie was injured during the tournament and then we lost Shane Warne."

Warne, the world's greatest leg-spin bowler, flew back to Australia after testing positive to drugs and was later disqualified from playing for a year.

"The guys who have stepped in have really played some great cricket, so there is no reason why we cannot keep producing these players and having them step in and play great cricket when it is required of them," Ponting said.

He said it had not been hard to captain a side as good as the Australian squad.

"I said that from the word go when I took over (from Test captain Steve Waugh a year earlier). With the talent we have in this side, that certainly makes my job a fair bit easier.

"We have played some great cricket during this campaign, in which we were undefeated.

"We were tested at certain times, but when we got into trouble one of the bunch put a hand up and made sure we got over the line.

"It wasn't smooth sailing all the time, but the final was a very good ending for us."

Ponting said when the competition started he believed the side were good enough to survive the tournament undefeated.

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 in four years time.

"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."

First Published: Mar 25, 2003 10:35 IST