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Ponting backs Ian Bell to shine

Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, Kumar Sangakkara and AB de Villiers are also on form and can win cricket games, said Ricky Ponting

Ponting backs Ian Bell to shine - Cricket News
Ricky Ponting
For the last two tournaments, one captain has got his hands on the trophy but having recently hung up his bat and gloves, Australian Ricky Ponting can sit back like the rest of us, make his predictions and enjoy the impending feast of cricket... How important is the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy in the cricket calendar?

As an Australian - and that's all I can speak for - we always took it very seriously and prepared very thoroughly for it. The trophy eluded us for a while but we soon had more success and were strong enough to win it for the last two tournaments. It's a big deal and we definitely prepared accordingly.

It is the best of the best. Do players like playing in such an elite tournament?

Absolutely. That adds to the preparation and then when you're in tournament mode you know you only have two or three days between games and that every game was vital against top opposition. It's amazing for the fans.

Looking ahead to the tournament and on current form, who would you say are the players who will shine come June?

Well I'll stick to the batsman and there are so many on the top of their game. Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, Kumar Sangakkara is in that bracket, AB de Villiers, Ian Bell. All are on form and can win cricket games.

You're impressed with Ian Bell's form then?

Very much so. He's on his way to being terrific. England also has Alastair Cook and if his Test match form gets into his one day cricket, who knows what will happen.

So many great batsmen. This really is a golden era isn't it?

It is. I think the amount of Twenty20 cricket being played and the skills being adapted in that format are carrying over to one-day cricket and so you don't really get any boring sessions in any form of the game at the moment.

You're a big fan of the one-day game right?

I am as I played so much of it throughout my career. I appreciate the Twenty20 format now though but yes, I have always loved playing one-day cricket and it's great that we have the Champions Trophy this summer and soon the 2015 World Cup in Australia.

As the only team to successfully defend the Champions Trophy, what do you think it will take for Australia to secure a hat trick of wins?

It will take a very big effort from the guys. There is a bit of negativity around our one-day game right now and that is all to do with our rotation policy. The players in the best team though still make up a very strong side who will enjoy the conditions. The thing I do know about Australian cricket teams is it doesn't matter about form going into a tournament, once they are there they will compete and no one will fancy playing them.

Group A looks very competitive and England and Australia will be favourites to progress but you have a sneaky feeling for New Zealand right?

It'll be tough but New Zealand always finds a way of qualifying. They have even found a way to win games in South Africa recently, they'll like the conditions in England and I wouldn't write them off.

Who are the favourites for the tournament?

It's so hard to call. India are number one in the world but teams such as Pakistan who aren't everyone's idea of favourites can surprise you and I would find it hard to call. The one-day format is more even than it has been in a long, long time and so when a tournament comes around anything could happen. Bowling will be key and so South Africa for me with Morkel and Philander will be so strong. If they bowl well in English conditions, I can see them going very far.

England took positives from their series loss in India. Can you see them winning it in front of their fans?

Certainly they have a chance. England take heart from competing so well in foreign conditions and will really be buoyed and up for it.

What was your favourite innings in the ICC Champions Trophy?

I'm afraid it was against England in the last tournament in South Africa. It was the semi-final and I managed to knock 111 and help secure a win. That stands out. It was the best I had batted for a long time and I felt good.

England face Australia at Edgbaston. How important is this match in the context of the Ashes series to follow? Will it have any bearing on the rest of the summer?

I'm not a believer in this having any effect on the Ashes series. It's just about wanting to win cricket matches and I wouldn't think the players will be thinking further ahead. These are the games that are pressurized and so they are the ones you want to play in.

What are the most important things a team needs to win an international tournament?

I always felt that you needed a really good balance of youth and experience. You need that youthful exuberance and no fear attitude but you also needs some calm heads who have the know how to get you through certain situations. Australia always had that and it's vital. You also want the momentum to go your way at the right time. There's no point peaking at the start, you want to be doing that around the semi-final stage.

How important do you think home advantage will be for England?

I think it can help but it can sometimes hinder. Expectations and distractions can get in the way. I think a team touring can be more focused and have a closer bond. Conditions might favour them but I think conditions in one-day cricket don't change much around the world so we'll see. It's a fine line.

You'll be watching on the telly. Are you a good fan? How have you found watching cricket without being involved?

I'm weaning myself off international cricket and so having recently retired I've made a conscious decision to not watch any because I will just want to get back out there playing. I'm giving myself a break but by the summer I'll be cheering the guys on.

Will it be nice to come to England soon and not be the Australian cricket captain?

It might stop people booing me! I enjoyed touring England immensely and I know I will have loads of fun being back there.

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