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CRICKET WORLD CUP 2003 / AUSTRALIA
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Tuesday, 25 March, 2003, 08:34 GMT

Fans welcome Aussies home

The Aussie squad were all smiles

Australia were given a rapturous reception after arriving home from South Africa with the World Cup.

Around 7,000 fans lined the streets in Perth as Ricky Ponting and his team paraded the trophy, which they won by beating India by 125 runs in last Sunday's final.

It was a much smaller crowd than greeted the team in Melbourne in 1999 after they won the last World Cup, but it had no effect on the celebratory mood of the players.

"The talent we've got in this side, it certainly makes my job a fair bit easier.

"We played some great cricket through this campaign. Whenever we were tested one of this bunch put their hand up and made sure we got over the line," said Ponting.

"I would like to have this group of guys around for the next one, if that was possible."

It was not all plain sailing for Australia, who lost all-rounder Shane Watson with a back problem prior to the tournament and then had to deal with the shock of Shane Warne being banned from the game for a year for taking a banned diuretic.

They also had to cope without fast bowler Jason Gillespie for the second half of the World Cup after he suffered an Achilles tendon injury.

Ponting receives a personal reward from wife Rianna

But Ponting added: "I thought we could go unbeaten - I thought we had the talent.

"Glenn McGrath told everybody we would go through undefeated."

The World Cup triumph extended Australia's record winning streak to 17 one-day games and the final was watched by a national TV audience of 2.6m, even though the game lasted into the early hours of the morning.

And vice-captain Adam Gilchrist, who smashed 57 off 48 balls in the final, said Australia's path to glory in 2003 was smoother than four years ago under Steve Waugh.

"We were under fire right from the beginning and every game was do-or-die really (in 1999)," Gilchrist said.

"There was a lot of adrenaline and excitement in 1999 but this time it felt a bit more controlled but certainly no less joyous occasion when we won it."

The team will not have long to savour their achievement, as they depart for a tour of the West Indies next Monday.

"We've been used to this sort of programming now for the last three or four years, so it's not too much of a shock to us.

"But there is no doubt that everyone here would like to have a few more days at least at home, to see their families and friends."



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