Thursday, February 3, 2011

Australia have an outside chance, says Steve Waugh

Six World Cup winning captains at an event in Mumbai, Mumbai, February 2, 2011
Six World Cup winning captains get together at an event in Mumbai

Steve Waugh, who led Australia to victory in the 1999 World Cup, has said Australia are in with a chance to defend their World Cup crown despite inconsistent results since the start of 2010. He claimed India and Sri Lanka will be strong contenders but didn't rule out Ricky Ponting's team. "Australia have an outside chance because they have matchwinners," Waugh said at an event in Mumbai. "I don't think this is a weaker Australian side.

"It's tough decision (to predict a winner). There are seven sides capable of winning but the side that has the momentum going into the quarter-final will be good. India are the slight favourites, as they know the conditions well and will have fantastic support. Sri Lanka have a very good chance too."

It might come as no surprise for Waugh to back the defending champions on a day when Australia pulled off their highest chase in ODIs, against England in Sydney. Australia had pocketed the seven-game series last week, and their dominant form in the ODIs after a humiliating Ashes drubbing only made Waugh confident about his countrymen. "Australia are still ranked No.1 in the world. In [Shaun] Tait, [Mitchell] Johnson and [Brett] Lee, they have the potential matchwinners. Their batsmen are also on top. Ricky is coming back from injury. Australian players are best when faced with adversity," Waugh said.

Austrlia's winning percentage in 2010 in ODIs had taken a beating: of the 25 matches played, spread over seven series, they won 16 and lost eight including the series defeat to Sri Lanka at home. But the return to form of seniors like Michael Clarke and Lee, along with the matchwinning capabilities of Shane Watson, makes Australia a dangerous opponent. Waugh, a two-time World Cup winner including one as captain in 1999, said Lee would be the lynchpin for Australia. Lee returned for the England series after sitting out from October 2009 due to lingering elbow injury. But Lee has not compromised on pace and so far is the highest wicket-taker in the series with 11 wickets at an average of 24 in the six matches. "Lee will be my impact player. He has amazing resilience, he is bowling back at 150kph and he loves touring India" Waugh said.

In the two World Cups held in the subcontinent (1987 and '96), Australia have won 12 of the 15 matches they've played.

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