Ponting insists Australia are still the best

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The Independent Online

Australia will deservedly remain the No 1 team in world cricket even if they lose the series against India, their vice-captain, Ricky Ponting, said yesterday.

India lead the four-Test series 1-0 after a draw in Brisbane and victory in Adelaide, and they are aiming to become the first touring team to win a series in Australia since the West Indies 11 years ago. The third Test starts here at the MCG on Friday.

Ponting was asked if the winner of the series should be considered the world's number-one team. "If we win it, yes; if India win it, no," Ponting said. "It's taken us a long time to be regarded as the best Test team in the world. It's going to take more than one side to beat us in a series for them to take that mantle." The India captain, Sourav Ganguly, said on Sunday that his side were aiming for the top spot, after suggesting earlier that they would have that honour if they won a series here.

It has been a rough few days for Australia since losing the Adelaide Test, with focus centring on a leaked letter from the coach, John Buchanan, to the players. Buchanan called the batting performance in Adelaide "soulless" and said deal-making and sponsorships were distracting players.

Ponting said the team would discuss Buchanan's comments at a meeting yesterday. "I agreed with some of it and there is some other stuff that's been going on around the team for a long time," he said. "We're going to address a lot of those issues. Then we'll go about our preparation to try to make us a better team."

Ponting said Australia needed to be more cautious in future. "We played badly for a couple of sessions and it cost us the game. We tried to set the game up a little too quickly in the second innings with our batting and it backfired on us. If we had batted for one more session things would have been very different."

Ponting said he was hoping that the fast bowler Brett Lee, who missed the first two Tests through injury, would unsettle India's batting line-up. "If we can get him back to his best you'd have him in any side, just for the fact that he can run in and stick it up batsmen," he said. "At the same time, he can blast batsmen out as well."

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