Australia are “absolutely” capable of winning the Cricket World Cup in England as star duo Steve Smith and David Warner prepare to return, according to assistant coach Ricky Ponting.
Former captain Smith and vice-captain Warner will see their ball-tampering suspensions end in March, with the World Cup scheduled to get underway in May.
Australia begin their campaign against Afghanistan in Bristol on June 1, before games against West Indies, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, England, New Zealand and South Africa.
Ponting – who won three World Cups as a player – believes the return of Smith and Warner can lead Australia to glory.
“Absolutely,” Ponting told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday when asked if Australia could win the World Cup.
“India and England are probably the two standout teams right now, but if you add Warner and Smith back into that line-up then I think that team looks as strong as any.
“I am not just saying that because I am one of the coaches, I actually said it when I wasn’t around the group.
“Conditions in England will suit our style of play … I think Australia will be one of the main contenders for sure.”
This bloke knows a thing or two about winning the @cricketworldcup… https://t.co/xOUo1jBHpm
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) February 10, 2019
Ponting added: “Looking at our line-up now, there are potentially a few better players of spin in the middle order than what we had last year.
“The thing about English conditions is the wickets shouldn’t spin too much throughout the World Cup.
“With the inclusion of two of the best one-day players in the world who have a lot of experience, all of a sudden the team starts looking a whole lot better.
“You will have guys that will handle a lot of pressure situations better because they have done it all before.”
While Smith and Warner are set to return, there are injury concerns over pace duo Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood heading into the tournament.
“We went to World Cups with Michael Bevan injured, Darren Lehmann suspended, Warney [Shane Warne] went home and Jason Gillespie went home,” said former captain Ponting, who was appointed assistant on Friday.
“World Cups very rarely run exactly to plan. All the planning right now is we will have all those guys in the squad and if we do, it looks as good as any squad on paper.”