Ponting asks teammates to play with aggression

Ahmedabad: Ricky Ponting on Wednesday asked his teammates to counter the mega threat from hosts and favourites India the Australian way with unbridled aggression and freedom when the two teams clash in the high-octane quarterfinal match here on Thursday.

"We need to play with freedom tomorrow, with conviction; the Australian way. I expect my batsmen to be clear (in their mind) and want them to play with freedom. If they think they can hit a four or six off every ball, they should do it," said Ponting on the eve of the defending champions` clash with India here in Motera.

"We know the style of cricket we need to play to win, we will do that tomorrow.

"Our batsmen got some clear plans on how we need to play considering the opposition and the conditions," he added.

The skipper, meanwhile rubbished reports back home that he is set to hang up his boots after the tournament.

"There has been stuff about me retiring that is completely false, untrue, never contemplated retiring. I am enjoying my cricket. Quarterfinal against India is a big game, preparing for that. (I) will be playing for a few more years," he declared at the packed pre-match media conference.

"I just want to enjoy the last couple of days, training and working hard, and just go out there and play."

He said the make or break clash, which will see the loser getting eliminated from the competition and the winner moving into the second semifinal to be played at Mohali on March 30, was huge in every respect.

"It doesn`t get any bigger, playing India in the quarterfinal tie in India. It`s one of the biggest games I have played as captain. It`s going to be enjoyable and exciting; a packed house tomorrow against a very good Indian team. (Like us) they will be a bit anxious about the outcome of the game as well," he remarked.

The 36-year-old Tasmanian, who has led his country to back-to-back Cup triumphs in 2003 and 2007, dismissed suggestions his team was a bit down after the loss to Pakistan in their league-ending Group A game in Colombo last Saturday.

"(We were) disappointed with our last performance. We were not as good as we needed on the day. But there`s a lot of excitement and energy going into the quarterfinal.

"It`s been a very enjoyable World Cup so far, the quarters, semis and finals are what World Cups are all about.

You can go through with dropping a game, but not so now."

He said the pitch when they played their opening league game against Zimbabwe on February 21 was a slow turning one with low bounce and expected India to attack his batsmen with a lot of spin bowling.

"The wicket was quite good, pretty much what you would expect for a subcontinent wicket; slow and spinning. It`s going to be nice and hot tomorrow. Not been surprised by anything so far, having played a lot of one-day cricket here."

Ponting said his team`s coaching staff would be here later today to assess the dew factor and then they would decide on the team composition.

With India relying on spin bowling more than their pace attack, Ponting and his team are aware they would have to counter the slow stuff for the majority of their batting innings, even from the beginning.

"We rely on our fast bowlers than spin, India probably do the exact opposite. We have an idea that they will do with something similar, spinner opening with the new ball, and pace bowlers coming back at the ball change time again (34 overs).

"We would face 30 overs of spin and they 30 overs of fast bowling. We feel if our fast bowlers bowl well, we have a good chance," he said.

Ponting also said he was aware of the threat posed by Indian spearhead Zaheer Khan and has studied his dismissals in the tournament.

"India has been reliant on Zaheer. What we have done is looked at the way he has bowled — 3-4 overs, then 26-27 overs, reverse-swing (occurring) and (during) batting power plays. Teams have lost wickets when they have tried to attack him.

"There are a couple of ways for us to look at it — get him out of attack or attack others — depends on how he starts tomorrow," he remarked.

Asked about the match being probably the last one featuring him and Indian maestro Sachin Tendulkar in a World Cup, Ponting said it was not only about the two individuals.

"It is more than individuals, not about Ponting and Sachin." he said.

Reminded about Tendulkar poised to complete hundred centuries in international cricket, the Australian skipper wished it will not happen tomorrow.

"It is an amazing record, that many 100s, but hopefully he won`t get it tomorrow," he said, adding with a smile "Performances here will help us play in the next World Cup."

Ponting also said he was not unhappy to take on the hosts in the quarters and not the summit clash on April 2 in Mumbai.

"India are one of the favourite teams. If we want to win the World Cup we have to win tomorrow."

Asked about lack of typically aggressive talk from his camp during the tournament, Ponting said his team`s performance on the field would send the message.

"Hope our cricket does the talking, a lot of that (aggressive talk) has not happened since (Glenn) McGrath and (Shane) Warne have been out of the team," he pointed out.