Ricky Ponting is adamant the return of Steve Smith and David Warner can propel Australia to World Cup glory, despite the team’s recent ODI woes.
Ponting, who captained Australia’s triumphant 2003 and 2007 World Cup sides, has been appointed an assistant coach for this year’s campaign in England.
He will take over from batting coach Graeme Hick who will focus on preparing the Test squad for the Ashes.
Smith and Warner’s bans expire two months before the World Cup, on March 29, and their preparations have been disrupted by elbow injuries.
But far from tempering expectations, Ponting believes the superstar duo’s return will dramatically boost Australia’s chances.
“India and England are probably the two standout teams right now but if you add Warner and Smith back into that line-up, I think that team looks as strong as any,” Ponting told reporters in Melbourne.
“With the inclusion of two of the best one-day players in the world and a lot of experience, all of a sudden the team starts looking a lot better.
“And you’ll have guys that will handle pressure situations a lot better.”
Smith is no chance of taking part in next month’s ODI series against Pakistan in the UAE. Warner will, at best, play the last couple of matches.
The most likely scenario has them shaping up in the Indian Premier League and, particularly in Smith’s case, racing the clock to be fit for the World Cup.
Key pacemen Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are also battling injuries and will miss this month’s white-ball tour of India.
Ponting will effectively serve as Justin Langer’s right-hand man with the Aussies seeking to overcome a dreadful run of form.
Since the start of 2018, they have played 16 ODIs and won three.
“I think the thing that’s held us back the last few years in one-day cricket has probably been how we play spin bowling,” Ponting said.
“That was certainly an issue when I was with the team in England last year. Moeen Ali and (Adil) Rashid tied our batsmen up.
“Looking at our lineup now, there’s potentially a few better players of spin in the middle order than what we had this time last year. But you think about English conditions as well, the wickets probably shouldn’t spin too much throughout the World Cup.”
Ponting’s IPL commitments mean he won’t join the Australian camp until after the subcontinent tours but he is hopeful of an immediate impact, having previously worked short-term with Australia’s ODI and T20 squads.
His appointment was made public the day after Cricket Australia announced bowling coach David Saker, who is thought to have clashed with Langer, had resigned.
Hick’s tenure beyond the Ashes also looks shaky but Ponting said his commentary role with Seven would prevent him taking a Test coaching role.
He is open however to taking on more short-term contracts.