"Test cricket is in a healthy state"

RECENTLY in India to launch AMP Sanmar's three life insurance products, former Australian captain Steve Waugh said Ricky Ponting's team would be in India to play good cricket.

G. VISWANATH

RECENTLY in India to launch AMP Sanmar's three life insurance products, former Australian captain Steve Waugh said Ricky Ponting's team would be in India to play good cricket. "They will play as a group. If they win I will be very happy. Australian cricketers play in the right spirit. Most Australians are approachable, happy go lucky, but once they get on the sporting field, the gloves are off. We play hard and to win, but in a fair manner and with passion. That's the way all Australians play. There's no difference when you play in the backyard with brothers. That's the way we are brought up.''

The former Australian captain, Steve Waugh, was in Mumbai recently. -- Pic. REUTERS-

Waugh said Test cricket at present is in a very healthy state and some aggressive cricket is being played these days. "Perhaps the bowlers are struggling, the pitches are getting flat, the outfields are getting smaller and the bats are getting bigger. Probably we have got to keep an eye there. There are lot of runs scored than wickets being taken. But in general people are happy to go and watch Test cricket and see results,'' said Waugh at the Grand Maratha Sheraton in Mumbai. Excerpts from his media interaction.

Question: Your views on being invited to re-light the Olympic Flame at Home Bush, Sydney?

Answer: It's a massive honour. I cannot believe I have been chosen to do that. Four years ago when the Olympics were held in Australia, I was involved in the torch relay. The main street in Sydney had 5,00,000 people and that was one of the highlights of my life.

What do you have to say on the two-tier system for Test cricket?

I think it's worthy of consideration. Two-tier system in one-day cricket is fine because there are sides playing one-day cricket and they are looking to inject sides all the time. I am not sure about Test cricket. There are only ten sides. I think one will be sick and tired of playing the same sides. We have got to be careful about Test match cricket. If you look at the history of Test cricket, there have always been weak sides in every era. Even when Don Bradman was playing and in the 50s and 60s, there were sides losing regularly. New Zealand took 26 years to win a Test match. We are getting a little bit carried away by a couple of sides not performing well. You have to give them opportunities.

Steve Waugh considers it a great honour to have been invited to re-light the Olympic Flame in Sydney. -- Pic. AFP-

Australia will be playing its first Champions Trophy against America. Your comments on America's entry into international cricket.

I think it's a good thing that America is in World cricket. They have the population and I think there will be enough people who will take interest in the game. I have played a couple of games in America. There are lot of cricketers looking forward to playing international cricket in America. They will take a long time to reach the international standard required, but I think there are coaches from overseas countries helping them to reach reasonable standards. They should be welcomed in one-day cricket. Test cricket is probably something that may not happen because it is very hard to start from not knowing much about cricket to learning all about Test cricket.

The proposed changes in one-day cricket... .

We have tried a number of things in domestic cricket in Australia like 12 players interchangeable. It has worked very well for many years. A player can be on or off the field as a bowler. You pick the 11 out of the 12 batters. We have had different fielding restrictions. Most players would welcome the fact that there is a possibility that they will be allowed to change rules and improvise and do things differently because one-day cricket stagnates some times.

Has one-day cricket stagnated?

I think one-day cricket has to be judged by the crowd response. The response is very high all over the world. But just because they are enjoying it, it doesn't mean that you cannot change. I think eventually there will be subtle changes. It's good for the game because it keeps the players on their toes. It provides a new interest for the spectators. Right now you have got to say that one-day cricket is very popular.

Your comments on not been able to cross the `Last Frontier', that's beating India in India in a Test series.

Firstly I am not sure if I said India was the last frontier. Some one said it and made it up to suggest that it was my comment. Anyway it's not a bad line. I had not played a lot of Test cricket in India. We had a gap of eight or nine years between the Tied Test and the next series in India. It was a ridiculously long time and we would have liked to play more in India. I am not unhappy about what we achieved in India in my career. I played in probably the greatest Test series in India. We won the World Cup. We had some success in Test cricket and so I am not disappointed, but I would have loved to have won a Test series. And now that's the challenge for Ricky Ponting's team.

Some of the former England cricketers have said England is ready to challenge Australia in the Ashes.

We have heard it before. It's great to see England doing well. But to be a world force, England has to be playing well. They no doubt see Australia as a massive challenge. In the past they have gone into the Ashes hoping to do well and believing that they could win. That has not happened for 16 or 17 years. The next series may present a good opportunity for them. They still have got to judge themselves as to how well they can do against Australia. But at the moment Australia will be pretty confident.

Brian Lara's 400 and the negative reactions from Ricky Ponting... .

What he said perhaps had some justification. It's an outstanding personal achievement to hold the world record twice. To score 400 is like Roger Bannister running the four-minute mile. You have to have great level of skill and concentration and desire to get there particularly playing for a losing side. It's a fantastic effort.

What do you have to say on Prime Minister John Howard calling Muttiah Muralitharan a chucker?

I did not hear John Howard's statement directly, so I cannot comment on it. The ICC has got to make those decisions. It's not for me, you or John Howard to make the call. The ICC has said that he cannot bowl the `doosra'. I think he is a better bowler bowling off spin anyway. It's a great achievement taking a world record number of wickets. So he should be appreciated. He makes Sri Lanka a very competitive side. He gets people through the gate to watch the game. And he is a nice guy.

The Test series between Australia and Zimbabwe being postponed... your reactions...

I am definitely happy that the Test series was deferred. The players were uncomfortable with the situation. When a team is picked on the basis of colour, then they should not be allowed to be playing. And that's what is happening in Zimbabwe. I am disappointed that they went ahead with the one-day series in exactly the same circumstances. I am a bit unclear as to why they played the one-day series. As players you are in a difficult situation because the cricket boards and the ICC guide you.