Cricket: Waugh happy to be in England

CONTROVERSY CONTINUED to follow the Australian team, who arrived down in London yesterday to begin their World Cup preparations.

Rarely can the Australians have been so happy to reach England, following the crowd disturbances and pitch invasions that plagued their recent West Indies tour.

Matters were then made worse when their captain, Steve Waugh, received a writ for defamation after his comments that the Barbados police chief failed to protect his side during the seventh one-day international in Bridgetown.

In addition the team needed an escort from the Australian High Commissioner Paul Smith to reach the safety of the airport on their way out of the Caribbean.

Waugh attempted to play down the incident, but a statement from the Australian Foreign Office confirmed an official did accompany the team to ensure they had no problems leaving following the lawsuit.

"It's been a bit upsetting, but I can't really comment legally because the whole issue is in the hands of our lawyers. I just want to focus on the World Cup," said Waugh.

"It was very disappointing that the tour ended like it did. I would have liked to have won the [one-day] series, but the last game was taken out of our hands."

Stephen Bernard, the team manager, confirmed the Australian Cricket Board has been in contact with World Cup organisers and is happy with security plans for the tournament.

Despite a fortnight of headlines and images which shocked the game, the Australians remained upbeat for their opening group match against Scotland in two weeks' time.

"This is what we've been waiting for. I know what it's like to win a World Cup, and this is very important to me," Waugh said.

"Any team is capable of winning here - even the less fancied teams can beat any other side. South Africa are entitled to be favourites at this stage, but it could all change. England have a good chance on home soil.

"As we found out in the Caribbean, playing in front of your own supporters makes all the difference. England have some young players and a well-balanced side."

Waugh is learning to deal with the pressures of full-time captaincy and said: "Nothing would have prepared me for what happened in the last eight weeks. I've learnt a lot and have always loved a challenge."

After a disappointing Test series Shane Warne returned to form in the one-day matches. "The wickets started to come during the one-dayers, and that's ideal preparation for the World Cup. I couldn't feel better," he said.

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