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We must retain focus - Rolton

Karen Rolton

Karen Rolton believes England and New Zealand are the main rivals

Australia captain Karen Rolton is happy for her players to enjoy the limelight but insists they must not sacrifice the job at hand as they bid to win the women’s World Cup for a sixth time.

Winners in 1978, 1982, 1988, 1997 and 2005 and runners-up in 1973 and 2000, the hosts are pooled with New Zealand, West Indies and South Africa in Group A.

“Being able to play in a World Cup at home is a great opportunity that will probably only come around once in the girls’ careers," said Rolton, who has played 131 ODIs and 13 Tests.

"I’ll be telling them to enjoy the extra attention and excitement but to remain focussed on what we want to achieve.

“As long as we prepare well, then we will be ready for whatever challenges come our way.

“Everyone is excited but relaxed about the World Cup. We’ve had great preparations so far and we have another camp in Canberra, which means we’ll be in great shape and ready for the challenge when we arrive in Sydney.

“Our success over the years has been due to a variety of reasons. We have worked hard, developed talented players, continued to introduce new players into international cricket and had the opportunity to play against good teams on a regular basis.

“The team that wins the World Cup will be the team that is able to play at a consistently high level. I think the winner will be able to claim that it is the best in the world."

When Australia last hosted the tournament in 1988, Lyn Larsen’s side routed England by eight wickets at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to complete a hat-trick of titles. Rolton is keen for her team to match that record.

“Every player in the current squad is proud of the achievements of the previous Australian women’s teams," she said.

ICC Women's World Cup 2009

“It would be great to emulate Lyn Larsen’s team and win on home soil but we’ve got a lot of hard work to do before we get a chance to do that. The team is relaxed and looking forward to the tournament.”

Rolton, the 34-year-old South Australian, has felt the elation of victory when she was part of the team that won in India in 1997 and in South Africa in 2005. But she has also tasted the bitter tears of defeat when New Zealand beat Australia in the final by four runs in New Zealand nine years go.

“The 2005 win was great to be a part of since we were able to regain the World Cup after losing it to New Zealand in the 2000 final,” recalled Rolton who stroked an unbeaten century to win the player-of-the-final award four years ago after being run-out for one in Lincoln in 2000.

“We still have a few players in the current squad from the 2005 team so they’ll be able to pass on their experiences to the younger members of the squad,” she said, referring to Alex Blackwell, Shelley Nitschke and Lisa Sthalekar, who will be participating in their second World Cup.

Rolton said the Rose Bowl Series against New Zealand, which Australia retained after the series decider was abandoned due to rain with both the teams tied on 2-2, provided the players the best opportunity to prepare for the World Cup. Australia also beat New Zealand by nine wickets in the Twenty20 International at the SCG on February 15.

“Playing in high-pressure matches was great preparation for the team, especially for the younger members of the squad, as we head into the World Cup.

“After losing the first two matches, we rebounded strongly, especially with the bat in the third and fourth games. To score 300 in the fourth match, against a team ranked in the top four, was something we had been targeting since the India series late last year.

“Our performance in the third and fourth matches (of the Rose Bowl) showed that if we play our best then we’re capable of doing things that not many other teams can do.

Karen Rolton

The Australia captain, aged 34, has mixed memories from playing at previous World Cups

“There is a lot riding on each match during the World Cup, so to prepare against one of the other favourites for the title will benefit us a lot. We learned a lot from New Zealand in the Rose Bowl Series and if we can execute our game plans, then I’m confident we’ll be successful,” said Rolton, who contributed 111 runs in the series at an average of 37.

Rolton said she was not worried by the fact New Zealand and England were challenging Australia’s dominance.

“It’s exciting for women’s cricket that there is more than one team that can win the World Cup. We enjoy the challenge from the other teams and having to raise the level of our play to continue to be successful,” she said.

Rolton requires 350 runs to leapfrog former captain Belinda Clark (4,844 runs) and become the most successful batter in women’s ODI history. But the ICC Women’s Player of the Year in 2006 is not tempted by the attraction and puts her team before personal glory.

“My focus at the moment is on making sure my preparation gives me the best chance to be successful.

“Belinda was a great player, one of the best ever, but for now I’m concentrating on how I can contribute to making our World Cup campaign a success.”

The Australia captain is also excited by the fact that ESPN STAR Sports, ICC’s official broadcaster, will broadcast all seven matches that will take place at North Sydney Oval, including the final. This will ensure that the event will be the most widely viewed to date, with the coverage to be aired in more than 100 countries.

“The seven matches that will be broadcast during the tournament is a fantastic chance for us to show our skills to the world. In Australia, this will be the most extensive television coverage we have ever received, so it’s going to be a huge moment for the promotion in the history of women’s cricket,” she said.