'England not as good as they think' - Steve Waugh
Steve Waugh believes England may fall victim to hubris in the forthcoming Ashes series, suggesting that Australia's bowling strength means Michael Clarke's team needs to only find a handful of decent batting performances to regain the urn.
Australia's nightmarish tour of India has lifted English confidence to stratospheric levels, leaving Ian Botham to speak for many when he remarked that "this is the worst Australian team I can remember". However, Waugh took a brighter view of Australia's prospects provided the selectors showed faith with the players they had identified to succeed.
"I think England aren't as good as they think they are," Waugh said at the New South Wales end of season awards night in Sydney. "I honestly think we can win the Ashes. We've got the bowlers to take 20 wickets. If that's the case you can win any Test match. It just needs a couple of batsmen to find a bit of form.
"Shane Watson, I think, has the potential to be a really great Test batsman, if he can step up to the mark along with Michael Clarke and some of the younger guys. I like the look of Phil Hughes, he's got something deep within him that makes him a long-term Test player; we've got Dave Warner.
"There's enough talent there, we just need some confidence in that line-up and if we follow on from the damage the bowlers are going to do, I think we can win the Ashes."
The results in India have brought a rush of pessimistic predictions and a vast array of prospective Ashes squads, but Waugh counselled those in charge to persist with the players they had chosen. Waugh is not directly involved with Australian cricket presently, but did sit on the Argus review panel that introduced a raft of changes to the national team's structure in 2011.
"I think we're just going to have to have patience with the current team," he said. "It reminds me a lot of 1985-86 when I first came into the Australian side. It took us a couple of years to know how to win ... 13 Test matches before I played in a winning Test side; 26 Tests before I scored a century. So, we've got to have patience in the side, believe in who we've got. We have to pick and stick for a while."
While presenting the medal that bears his name to the young Blues paceman Gurinder Sandhu, Waugh also posited the view that women's cricket had advanced to the point that Cricket Australia should consider instructing Big Bash League sides to include one female player in each squad. Alex Blackwell was named the NSW women's cricketer of the year for 2012-13, while the retiring Lisa Sthalekar was also honoured.
"I think it's about time where we could have one female player per Big Bash side," Waugh said. "Going forward, I can't see why the girls can't have representation in the Big Bash. It's a bit out there, that thought, but I think it might be time."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here