Ponting in survival battle, Windies face Pakistan

Ricky Ponting of Australia might be axed after the World Cup

By Dave James

New Delhi: Mar 22, 2011

Under-fire Ricky Ponting was fighting for his future as Australia skipper on Tuesday, just two days before his defending champions tackle India in a heavyweight World Cup quarter-final clash. The 36-year-old, who took over as one-day captain in 2002 before assuming control of the Test team from Steve Waugh in 2004, may be relieved of his duties for next month’s tour of Bangladesh, according to a senior official.

“We need to be looking at the future. It’s time for us to make a change,” the Sydney Morning Herald quoted a Cricket Australia official as saying. The uncompromising Ponting came into the World Cup under a cloud having become the only Australian captain to fail to win the Ashes three times.

His mood hasn’t improved at the tournament where he smashed a TV set after being run out during the win over Zimbabwe and then had his sportsmanship questioned when he failed to walk in Saturday’s defeat to Pakistan.

But despite the gathering storm, his teammates rallied round the veteran on Tuesday. “From my point of view he’s the best man for the job. He’s certainly got the full support of all the team. We love having him as our captain,” said batsman Mike Hussey.

Australia will go into Thursday’s clash against India in Ahmedabad having seen their 34-match unbeaten streak at the World Cup, a sequence stretching back to 1999, ended by Pakistan. Coach Tim Nielsen believes that the key to Thursday’s tie will be to silence the home crowd at the Sardar Patel Stadium to make sure the pressure slowly builds on India.

“Playing at home’s a huge factor for them. If we can start the game well and maybe quieten the crowd that will play on the minds of the Indian team,” Nielsen said.

“They will be answering all the questions; there’ll be questions about the surface we play on, there’ll be questions about their line-up.”

Australia have won nine of the 15 one-dayers played between the two sides in India in the last five years and have defeated their rivals in seven of nine World Cup meetings. The quarter-finals start on Wednesday with struggling West Indies facing resurgent Pakistan in Dhaka where the Caribbean side will be looking for inspiration from history to pull off a shock result.

Manager Richie Richardson was captain when the West Indies overturned the form book in the 1996 quarter-final in Karachi and stunned an unbeaten South Africa. “Anything can happen in the knock-outs, you don’t get a second chance,” said the 49-year-old Richardson, who took over as manager for a two-year term in January.

Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi, who is the tournament’s leading bowler with 17 wickets, has pledged to improve his batting having contributed just 65 runs in six games.

“I have not batted well and will focus on that tomorrow. I know how important my batting is for the team and I will try to get some runs on the board,” said Afridi. West Indies will be boosted by the return of star batsman Chris Gayle and pace spearhead Kemar Roach.

The duo missed the defeat to India in Chennai on Sunday with Gayle resting an abdominal strain and Roach feeling unwell due to a stomach infection. In the remaining two quarter-finals, South Africa will face New Zealand in Dhaka on Friday while Sri Lanka tackle England in Colombo on Saturday.

News AFP

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