Ricky Ponting is confident his squad can erase the "bit of negativity" gained during its five-match losing streak and retain the World Cup in the West Indies. As the squad prepared to leave for the Caribbean, Ponting hoped Australia would be the outright favourites when the tournament starts on March 11.
"I know we're going to be extremely hard to beat," Ponting said at the airport in Sydney. "We're drifting favourites but, once the cricket gets underway, hopefully you'll see some cricket that's going to mean that we still are the favourites going in."
Australia suffered a horrible end to their home summer by losing the CB Series and they were then whitewashed by New Zealand in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy. However, the side has regained Ponting (back) and Michael Clarke (hip) while Adam Gilchrist, who became a father for the third time at the weekend, is expected to be ready for the first game against Scotland on March 14. Andrew Symonds is also travelling with the group after surgery on his arm and he hopes to make a mid-tournament entry.
"I'm really happy with the squad of players that we've got," Ponting told AAP. "There's been a bit of negativity around the team over the last couple of weeks, but I guess that's to be expected when you're not playing your absolute best - and we certainly haven't done that. But we've had up to six or seven of our top 11 players out as well."
Ponting said he was looking forward to defending the trophy Australia won in 1999 and 2003 and said the players faced a serious challenge. "It doesn't get any bigger than a World Cup so if we can't lift ourselves up and play some good cricket in this, we never will," he said.
"We've got some work to do, no doubt, and we've got some talking to do about our cricket as well. But we'll get that done very early." Australia will face Zimbabwe and England in warm-up matches next week before playing Scotland, The Netherlands and South Africa in the opening round.