SYDNEY: Australia left for the Cricket World Cup in the West Indies on Wednesday, with captain Ricky Ponting asserting the team was still tournament favourite, despite injuries and poor lead-up form.
``I'm really happy with the squad of players that we've got,'' Ponting told reporters at the Sydney airport.
``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.''
Australia relinquished its No.1 world ranking to South Africa during a series of five straight losses to England and New Zealand in February but Ponting said the return of players injured or unavailable during the New Zealand series had boosted the team.
``We've got some work to do, no doubt, and we've got some talking to do about our cricket (tactics) as well. But we'll get that done very early and I know that we're going to be extremely hard to beat,'' he said.
``I know now that 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. I'm not that fussed at the moment that we're going in having lost our last five games.
``That should be able to bring the best out in the players and this team generally lifts itself and plays its best cricket when there's some big games on the line, and it doesn't get any bigger than a World Cup.''
Australia left for the World Cup without fast bowler Brett Lee, out with a sprained ankle, and with all-rounder Andrew Symonds (bicep strain), opening bat Matthew Hayden (broken toe) and Michael Clarke (hip) still under injury clouds.
Ponting said those players might have to be carefully nursed back into action.
``(Symonds) is a fair way ahead, I think, of where everyone thought he might be as far as his recovery goes, which is great news for us,'' Ponting said.
``He's got a bit more movement and strength than what they thought he might have had.
``(Hayden) is only a week into it now. Speaking to him last night, he said he felt he was going to be a bit of a pain in the backside to the rest of the squad for a couple of weeks. He's going to be sitting around not doing much.
``But after a couple of weeks, knowing what Matty's like, once we start playing some cricket, it's going to be pretty hard to keep him out, I think.''
New Zealand also left for the Caribbean Wednesday with all-rounder Jacob Oram's broken finger it's principal injury concern. Oram said he would be prepared to go to any lengths to ensure he would be able to play in the world tournament.
``If it means cutting the finger off, if that's the worse case scenario, if that's the last resort, I'll do that, there's no way I'm missing this,'' he said.