‘No issue with day-night Tests'

“Test cricket needs some innovations, but they shouldn't tamper too much with the essence of the game,” says Steve Waugh in a chat with G. Viswanath.

Steve Waugh says he's probably visited India 50 times — more after his retirement, and in connection with his charity work for ‘Udayan Care' in Kolkata. The former Australian captain was in India recently to project the Steve Waugh Foundation's plans for those suffering from leprosy in India and also represent Laureus Sports and its Magic Bus project for the underprivileged.

Waugh is convinced that Test cricket will survive, and that a few countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe should develop their cricket together so that they have the potential to play Test cricket under the banner of East Africa. He says the same for Ireland and Scotland too.

Waugh expressed his happiness over former Australian Prime Minister John Howard becoming the ICC President in 2012. He, however, added that Howard will not have too many options to increase the membership of Test-playing nations.

“Former cricketers are great for the ICC, but they are not businessmen and they are not well versed with diplomacy skills. There are big issues to be confronted. One cannot be a figure-head; he has to do the work,” says Waugh.

Excerpts from the interview:

Question: John Howard is set to become the ICC President in 2012. None of the ICC presidents have been able to increase the number of Test-playing nations…

Answer: One has to be realistic about his goals. No one envisaged Twenty20 turning into a phenomenon. One has to be forward thinking and innovative. I don't see better options coming up for John Howard right now.

Colin Cowdrey, the first chairman of the ICC, believed that Holland and Kenya had the potential to become Test-playing nations. Now observers say that Ireland needs to be encouraged?

I don't know whether they (Holland and Kenya) had the support, but I would like to see an East African team, with a combination of countries, just like the West Indies. Possibly a group of countries like Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe can come together as an East African Test nation rather than Zimbabwe alone as is right now. That's a better proposition. Also Scotland and Ireland could come together as a Test-playing nation. As individual nations, they are not strong enough, but can develop their cricket together and play as one team.

Speculations are that Test cricket would become a four-day affair, day-night games with pink balls…

I am still for five-day Test cricket. The best results come in the last hour of the final day's play. Recently, South Africa and England played two Tests — nine down in the last few minutes, and that's what Test cricket is all about. I am in favour of day-night Test cricket with pink balls. Test cricket needs some innovations, but they shouldn't tamper too much with the essence of the game. I don't have an issue with day-night Tests. One has to apply common sense, so why not try day-night Test cricket?

In England, it's not necessary to play day-night Tests because in summer there's light up to 10 p.m.

Australia seems to have plenty of talent, with Doug Bollinger, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and a few more fast bowlers coming through…

Australia has a strong domestic system; the players are trained well and they all want to play for the nation. There are probably 10 young quick bowlers coming through now. There is lot of talent in New South Wales and Victoria.

Your comments on the Umpires Decision Review System?

It's pretty confusing at the moment. In tennis it's very simple — the ball is either in or out. We can't do that in cricket, for there are decisions like run-out and stumping to be made. Then things like has the ball pitched in line also needs to be considered, and there's the question of height too. They are all tricky. It's (Umpires Decision Review System) not working at the moment. It appears even the hot-spot is not 100 per cent correct. Maybe they have to make it simpler and put the onus back on the umpires.

Today, the teams have batting and bowling coaches, and even seam and spin bowling coaches…

I have never been involved in cricketing circles since I retired. I have no idea what a batting or a bowling coach does. There's enough cricket now and Bobby Simpson would cover all those aspects of the game — batting, bowling, fielding, spin bowling. Maybe one can bring in the specialists occasionally. A full time spin coach maybe just to justify his position.

Should Test cricket return to uncovered wickets?

That's a thought. I saw 10 minutes of the England-Bangladesh Test match and could not watch it anymore. There was nothing in the pitch for the bowlers. It was poor standard of cricket. One must have pitches that encourage the bowlers to get batsmen out.