Ponting starts preparations for World Cup

Sydney, Feb 3 (PTI) Australia captain Ricky Ponting hasstarted his preparations for the upcoming World Cup afterbeing on the sidelines for nearly a month due to a brokenfinger.

Ponting is still feeling pain but insisted yesterday thathe was on track to lead Australia''s defence of the World Cuplater this month.

The captain batted in the nets for the first time in fourweeks after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured littlefinger but did not face the fast bowlers.

Ponting faced a series of throw-downs from batting coachJustin Langer and emerged drenched in sweat after the session.

"I''m not too bad, probably better than expected to tellyou the truth. It''s the first time I''ve hit any balls forclose to a month," he said.

"I started off with soft balls and plastic balls to getthe feel of the bat back in my hand again, and the only onesthat hurt a lot were where the bat was twisting in my hand abit. But I''m pretty happy with how the day went," Ponting wasquoted as saying by ''Sydney Morning Herald''.

Ponting doesn''t see himself playing in the last twomatches of the ongoing ODI series against England but harbourshopes of being fit to play in one of Australia''s two practicegames on the subcontinent ahead of the side''s opening WorldCup match, against Zimbabwe on February 21.

"I think Perth is unlikely. Today was my first hit, and Idon''t think Don Bradman could go into a game having a monthoff with only one or two training sessions under his belt,"Ponting said.

"I think I''m going to have that (pain) for a while totell you the truth," Ponting said.

"I don''t think it''s going to be one of those things thatgoes away altogether."

Injury has been a cause for worry for the Australianswith Shaun Marsh being the latest casualty.

Considered the likely replacement for Ponting, Marsh wasyesterday ruled out of the final two matches of the one-dayseries against England.

Scans yesterday revealed that Marsh, who has played thelast four matches against England after replacing MichaelHussey, received a " low grade" right hamstring injury whilebatting at the Gabba on Sunday.

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