Ponting confident Australia on track for World Cup

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SYDNEY, Feb 12 (Reuters) Australia captain Ricky Ponting is confident his team's sudden form slump in one-day cricket will not carry over into the World Cup.

Australia remain favourites to win the tournament for the third time in a row after claiming last year's Champions Trophy, but chinks in their armour have suddenly appeared.

They struggled to beat New Zealand in three successive tri-series matches and lost three games, including two finals, to England.

The Australians have undergone a gruelling physical training programme over the past two weeks to ensure they peak for the World Cup but Ponting said the extra workload was no excuse for the loss of form.

''I don't really have any explanation as to why we have played the way we have in the last couple of games,'' he told reporters after his team's 34-run defeat by England yesterday.

''But maybe this is the kick up the backside we needed.'' Australia's slump has raised fresh questions about the makeup of their World Cup squad, which is due to be announced tomorrow.

Ponting was meeting with the selectors today but does not expect the defeats to have any bearing on the makeup of the 15-man squad.

The 13 players chosen for the tri-series finals are all likely to go to the World Cup along with injured all-rounder Andrew Symonds and another fast bowler, probably Stuart Clark.

''I don't think this changes too much,'' Ponting said.

''I'm sure the selectors will be asking a few more questions of me with regards to selection for the World Cup squad but I guess that's to be expected when you have a couple of bad performances in a row.

''I don't think any individuals have had two really dreadful games so I don't think they'll be a great deal of panic from the selectors.'' The World Cup starts in the West Indies next month but Australia have five more warm-up matches, three one-dayers in New Zealand beginning on Friday, and two more after arriving in the Caribbean.

''It's the biggest tournament that we play in and we've got to be as good as we can be if we think we've got a chance of even making the semi-finals,'' Ponting said.

''Going off the way we've been playing in the last couple of games we've got a bit of work to do.

''It would have been nice to win this series but if we can win in New Zealand, that'll give us some momentum going over there.

''We've got time to get things back on track and we can't afford to be making the same mistakes in a World Cup.'' REUTERS DKS BST0710

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