`There's so much freedom for Chappell and Co. now'

"THE LAST ASHES SERIES WAS GOOD FOR Australian cricket. There is a 30 per cent increase in kids playing cricket because of the interesting series and a 35 per cent hike in cricket equipment sales," says Dean Jones.-G.P.SAMPATH KUMAR

"I think Rahul Dravid enjoys Greg's thoughts, but still the skipper has got to carry the team. He's got to agree to the changes and he has done that very well," says Dean Jones to G. Vishwanath.

Dean Jones is the batting coach of Victoria. According to the right-hander, who represented Australia in 52 Tests and 164 ODIs from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, Australian cricketers are picked to wear the `Baggy Green' in at least 50-plus Tests and not four or five Tests. Jones spoke exclusively to Sportstar on a variety of topics. The excerpts:

Question: Greg Chappell has played 35 Tests against England. As an Australian, did your eyes pick out Chappell fighting a subtle and abridged version of the Ashes in the recent series against England?

Answer: The great thing about Chappell is that the he thinks outside the square a little bit more. Who would have ever thought to drop key players such as Laxman and Kaif in the Mohali and Mumbai Tests? In the history of Indian cricket, who would ever have dropped Kaif, who had made 91 in Nagpur? To win Test matches, you have got to take 20 wickets. Firstly, the balance in the bowling department must be right and secondly one should hope to get the batsmen around it. I think Rahul Dravid enjoys Greg's thoughts, but still the skipper has got to carry the team. He's got to agree to the changes and he has done that very well. That's what I like about this Indian team.

Does the balance of the Indian team reflect an Australian way of thinking?

A little bit. Australia is not frightened to make changes. The policy there is not reactive, but proactive. There's so much freedom for Chappell and Co. now. India didn't do well in the Karachi Test against Pakistan mainly because one can't win Test matches with three left-arm bowlers. Subsequently, India brought in Sreesanth and Munaf Patel, who both bowled beautifully against England in the Tests. India has a very good line-up now. The fitness of the team is better than ever before. They have started to field better. These days, it's not about Sachin Tendulkar making a hundred. It's all about winning. And the Australian line of thought was not necessarily about Greg Chappell making a brilliant double century against the West Indies. The best fun Greg has ever had is in winning.

You have seen a lot of the Indians recently. Is there any particular change that has impressed you?

The best teams in the world have been able to win outside their own country. Rahul Dravid has now got a bowling line-up that will be competitive on any pitch. If they have to drop Anil Kumble, for whatever reason, they could play R. P. Singh, Pathan, Sreesanth and Patel. They have shown that they will drop certain key players in an attempt to win the game. I'm a bit worried that the ex-players here are a little bit too parochial about which players come from what state. I think the selectors have done a fantastic job in getting through the Ganguly crisis. They couldn't have won any better in Pakistan in the one-dayers. In such a short period of time, Greg has changed the thinking. I am not saying this because Greggy is from Australia. Even if he were from England, he'd still have done the same things.

What do you make of Rahul Dravid?

I am so happy for him. He's well loved by his players for his efforts on and off the ground. He's well loved by the fans, unbelievably respected by opposition teams. If you looked at his stats, no team in the world has got him. He averages 50-plus except in Australia where it is 49. He's an even better bloke off the ground. Wonderful gentleman. The captaincy couldn't have come at a better time for him. He has done just about everything as a batsman. As a player, of course, he is yet to win a World Cup. But, I think he's trying to get young kids through. He is a bit like when Allan Border started; everyone loved him and was prepared to go through a big wall. I get the feeling that Dravid will take tough decisions. He declared when Sachin was on 194 in the Multan Test of the 2004 series against Pakistan. India won the game. All he wants to do is win.

How would the Australian selectors have perceived Sachin Tendulkar of now?

"In such a short period of time, Greg has changed the thinking. Even if he were from England, he'd still have done the same things."-R.V. MOORTHY

I just want Sachin to go out there and play. I would ask myself, what do I think of Sachin Tendulkar and Steve Waugh? Sachin is a far better cricketer. But if you ask me who I'd want to be, I say with respect that I'd choose Steve Waugh. And the reason; Steve Waugh has won two World Cups, seven Ashes battles, four Sir Frank Worrell Trophies, 15 World Series Championships, three Sheffield Shields, four ING one-day domestic titles and four premierships for his club. Sachin is a brilliant player, but you are only as good as the players around you. Sachin, unfortunately, hasn't had some great bowlers to win Test matches. He got close to winning the World Cup in 2003. Unfortunately, he got Australia on his bad day.

Has India's focus been on individuals at the expense of the team?

A little bit. The culture has got to change in the press. More emphasis should be placed on the team winning. Of course, we want to see Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar bat. But nothing surpasses the fun you get out of watching the team win. In the fifth ODI at the Wanderers between South Africa and Australia, we enjoyed South Africa's historic run chase. But we enjoyed more the celebration at the end of it. At least I did. I played in a very good era. Since the time I was dropped from the team in 1994, we have lost just three Test series. The team comes first. We have got something else in life to do. I wasn't good enough to hang on to my spot. They replaced me with a couple of other guys, and they began winning a lot more. That's the way it is.

Bobby Simpson has been saying that after Ricky Ponting came into the scene, no young Australian has made a big impact?

Bowlers win Test matches, batsmen win one-dayers. That's always been my theory. When I first started playing, I had to work. I had a proper job, my winter work, and then I had to come back and practise. Guys like Ponting and Warne have never worked a day in their lives. They have been through the academy, they got the best physical conditioners, the best medical staff. Unfortunately, here, the press thinks that at 33, 34 and 35, players are old. If you can walk into the showers, you'll see them having bodies of 25-year-olds — these guys are unbelievably fit. Warne is in unbelievable nick. He can still keep going. Glenn McGrath has got a wonderful action and he can keep going on forever. They are 34 and 35, but their bodies are actually 25 or 26.

Would you say players like Mike Hussey and Brad Hodge, having played many first class matches, have no fear of failure? Mark Waugh played 100 first class matches before his first Test?

Mark Taylor scored 4000 first-class runs before he got picked for Australia. We prepare them very well. We prepare them not just to play Test cricket, but get the Baggy Green cap. Admittedly, 396 guys now possess the Baggy Green. We try to prepare players through the academies and through their states to be there for 50 or more Tests, not just one or two. And I think it's a failure if you play only 4-5 Tests and you are not good enough. If you are 22, your thinking is completely different from when you are 30. These guys at 30 know their emotions, know they'll play accordingly and will not get overawed by the big occasion. And that's why Hussey walked straight in; he knew his game and what he could do. His brother David Hussey, who plays for Victoria, said, "I didn't even know he was that good." It is the same with Hodge. If Warney breaks down, we have got MacGill who averages nearly 6 wickets per Test. It's only the fast bowlers who are a major concern for us. But then we have Stuart Clark, who has bowled magnificently in his first series in South Africa. Steve Waugh only debuted five players. You can put that down as selfishness or whatever. Ricky Ponting has now debuted 10 inside 27 games. That's quite something — he is creating a new era slowly underneath your garb.

Can Australia find a replacement for McGrath and Warne?

We cannot. They are once-in-a-lifetime players. We have got a way of playing four bowlers. We don't need to play five bowlers. Bradman has always said, "to win Test matches, you need five bowlers", and I think he was right. But when you have got a McGrath and a Warne, the fifth bowler is surplus to requirements. Now we are in a situation where we might lose McGrath in the future. As a result, Gilchrist might have to bat at six. Hopefully, one of the bowlers can bat a bit at seven. So we might have to do an India — back ourselves and get the balance right because the bowlers haven't got the class of Warne or McGrath. We have to spread the workload among five bowlers instead of playing four.

Will Australia play the next Ashes differently?

Australia has blooded some new kids since the last Ashes. Ponting has had a close look at his captaincy, the coaching staff and everything else have been given a good shake-up. The last Ashes series was good for Australian cricket. There is a 30 per cent increase in kids playing cricket because of an interesting Ashes series and a 35 per cent hike in cricket equipment sales, which is massive. Australia now have their eyes on regaining the Ashes. They have won the ICC Super Series and Super Test since the last Ashes, belted the West Indies, defeated South Africa at home and away. They are doing everything right.

One can't help feeling sorry for the poor bowlers after the Wanderers ODI.

Trust me, the bowlers get more money than anybody else. They get the good-looking wives; they get everything. They are all right. Don't feel sorry for them. I can give you instances of matches where teams were bowled out for less than 100.

You were outnumbered in the commentary box in the recent India-England series — just one Australian against four Englishmen, David Gower, Ian Botham, Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain?

I tried to make sure that the Indians got a fair shout. It would have been all about England. They were calling me a choker and a gas bottle and all those stuff. When I played golf at the Amby Valley, I was four holes up and four to go against Ian Botham and he won the last four and said that I choked. I just have to take it on the chin. When you are number one, there is only one place to go, that's down.