London: Australia's chances of defending the World Cup crown will depend on how well they play spin and use it, feels Ricky Ponting. "The thing that will define Australia's success in the World Cup is, one, how well they bowl spin and, two, how well they play it," Ponting told The Telegraph.
Remarking that it's been their Achilles heel in the last 12-18 months, Ponting said, "Adam Zampa is bowling well now, Nathan Lyon's obviously in the squad and Glenn Maxwell's done a good job with the ball whenever he's played."
The former skipper also backed the Australian middle order, saying they were better players of the turning ball now than they were 12 months ago.
"Some of our middle order are probably slightly better players of spin now than they were 12-18 months ago. With David Warner there and Steve Smith coming back, the middle order looks a lot better against spin bowling than it probably was," he said.
Ponting said Smith and Warner would be fine at the World Cup and could keep their off field issues behind them. "They're playing well. Smith still thinks he's not probably 100 per cent fit just yet, but he's not far away. Warner's been the dominant batsman in the IPL," Ponting said.
"They're class players. They'll have their fair share of issues to deal with from the crowds and stuff when they get over there. They're big boys. They've been there and seen it all before. I'm sure they'll be fine," he said.
Ponting, who will be assisting head coach Justin Langer at the World Cup, said Aaron Finch's team could recall past victories for inspiration and knowledge to avoid peaking too early.
"I guess that's probably one of the reasons they've got me involved -- having been around some successful World Cup campaigns," Ponting said.
Stating that tournament play is a different thing, and not just another five- or three-game series, he said it was all about a pretty long tournament of one-day cricket.
"You've got to find a way to build your way into the tournament and make sure you're playing your best cricket at the back alley. That's one thing Australians have always done. They've tended to play their best cricket in the World Cups and when it has mattered in the big games," the former captain said.
He said, Australia had got a proud history "that'll be something that will be spoken about within the group." But it was also a chance for current players to make a name for themselves on the world stage and a chance for them all to become World Cup winners as well, he added.
Ponting put his weight behind Finch who led Australia to series wins in India and Pakistan in the UAE. "That Finch has just had a bit of success lately as captain and had got himself back into the runs after a pretty lean 12 months with the bat, that'll give him a lot of confidence going into this World Cup," Ponting said. "To beat India in India for him as a captain is a big feather in his cap," he remarked.
"They've got a really good chance -- I've been saying that for 12 months. It looks like a lot of the work that Justin and the senior players have done around the group is starting to pay off," Ponting said.