New Delhi: Nicknamed 'Punter' for his old habit of placing bets on greyhound racing, two-time World Cup-winning captain Ricky Ponting has predicted an India-Australia final in the 2015 edition of the showpiece event starting February 14.
"I think Australia will meet India in the 2015 World Cup final. It will be an interesting match-up between two great batting sides and an ideal setting for a World Cup final," Ponting said at the Aaj Tak conclave 'Salaam Cricket'. Sitting amid an elite panel of World Cup-winning captains, Ponting was frank in his admission that the Michael Clarke-led Aussie outfit will be a force to reckon with on its home ground.
"Surely, Australia will emerge champions," said Ponting, breaking the hearts of many an Indian audience seated in the hall of a city hotel yesterday. "New Zealand are definitely the dark horses. They are unbelievably good at home. The have the best depth in their team with regard to fast bowlers and allrounders," he added.
After being involved in over 160 Tests and 370 ODIs, Ponting accumulated 27,082 runs to become Australia's leading run-scorer in Test and ODI cricket. Ponting opined that Aussie batsmen David Warner will be the one to watch out for in the 11th edition of the 50-over World Cup. "Power-hitters are a welcome change in the 50-over game and I believe Warner is going to have maximum impact in the World Cup.
David Warner will be the player for Australia. In the last 12 months he has been playing really well, be it Test cricket, ODIs or T20s. If he can give a flying start with new balls from both ends, Australia will be going one way and that will be to win," said Ponting, who was also part of the 1999 World Cup winning Australia squad.
Ponting, who led Australia to win the quadrennial event in 2003 and 2007, rued that though the game has seen a change for the better in the last five years the art of bowling yorkers has not improved since the time of the great Wasim Akram and Curtly Ambrose.
"Wasim and (Curtly) Ambrose were the best when it came to bowling yorkers and death bowling. It's disappointing to see bowlers not being able to carry their legacy forward. Though cricket has improved, this facet (bowling yorkers) continues to lag behind," said Ponting.
On being asked about the kind of impact that the India-Australia series in December-January will have on the team's World Cup chances, Ponting said that once the mega event starts everything else fades off. "Nothing counts when the World Cup starts. Whether you win or lose, does not matter. When World Cup starts, you forget everything and start a new chapter. So I don't think the series will have a bearing on the tournament," opined Ponting.
But the 39-year-old Tasmanian insisted that it will be crucial how Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the think-tank manage the players in the series Down Under, leading up to the World Cup. "How they will manage their players is the most important part of it. They should be rotated in the three Tests and the tri-series that follows in a manner that they are all fit and fresh.
And when the World Cup starts everything (the results of the series) goes out of the window and you focus on the World Cup," said Ponting. Holding the tag of being Australia's most successful captain across all formats, Ponting also advised the current skippers, including Dhoni, to do their home work well in advance.
"A majority of captaincy is done before the match. Anyone can make bowling changes and put a fielder from square leg to long on but captaincy is more than that. You strategise well before the match. Get into the opposition and once you are on the field you just execute your plan," said Ponting. With the role of modern-day coaches changing from just providing technical tips to more about off-field strategising, Ponting insisted the job can be re-named as 'manager' than a coach.
"Coaches play a big part in modern-day cricket. I had John Buchanan and to me he was the best coach. Look coaches cannot give players batting and bowling tips, modern players know all that but the new role is more about managing the team. And hence I feel the job should be re-named as 'manager'," said Ponting.