AHMEDABAD // Mike Hussey has jumped to the defence of Ricky Ponting, saying the under-fire Australia captain has the full backing of the squad and will silence his critics in the World Cup quarter-finals.
"Ricky has our 100 per cent support. He has been copping criticism for minor things," Hussey said yesterday, two days before tomorrow's quarter-final against India, the pre-tournament favourites. "Champions rise in big matches and we will see him at his best against India."
A report in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper quoted an unnamed Cricket Australia official as saying that Ponting's position as captain is at risk, which has increased speculation that a dismissal is imminent.
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Ponting has been out of form and has had a troubled World Cup campaign, starting when he was fined for damaging a television in the dressing room after he was run out in Australia's opening match against Zimbabwe — also at Ahmedabad.
His angry reaction to a collision with young teammate Steve Smith in a fielding mishap in a group match and his refusal to walk after clearly edging the ball behind in last weekend's loss to Pakistan has added to a swirl of negative attention for Ponting in the tournament.
Ponting has played in the last four World Cup finals and been on the last three winning teams, as captain in the last two. The loss to Pakistan ended a run of 34 unbeaten matches for Australia at the World Cup, and pressure on the 36-year-old Ponting is mounting.
The Herald quoted its unnamed source as saying: "We're waiting for the next thing to blow up. We don't go a game without there being some issues with him."
But Hussey, a late addition to the Australian squad after he was originally omitted due to hamstring injury, said Ponting "has been our leader and has the full support of the team."
Ponting's poor publicity had not distracted the Australians, either, he said. "We are fully prepared and hoping to go into the match with full freshness and fitness of both body and mind," Hussey said.
Despite the brilliant form of the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, India's batting line-up has been a little bit brittle at times.
They lost nine wickets for 29 runs against South Africa and also slid badly against England and the West Indies.
MS Dhoni, the captain, concedes the collapses are worrying as India also lost their last seven wickets for 33 runs in a high-scoring tie against England and seven for 50 during an 80-run win over the West Indies.
"It is [a concern], but as you say, you can see there's a gradual improvement," Dhoni said after the last group match against the West Indies. "Hopefully, in the quarters we'll be at our best, that's the positive I'm taking out of it."