No place for teams picked on colour May 31, 2004

Waugh: one-day series should have been cancelled

Steve Waugh believes Australia's one-day side was wrong to go ahead with their recent series against Zimbabwe, putting him at odds with his immediate successor as Test captain, Ricky Ponting.

Speaking to the media in Mumbai, Waugh supported the decision to call off the Test series and said it should have been extended to the three one-day matches too.

"I'm definitely happy that the Test series was deferred," he said. "I think the players were uncomfortable with the situation. When a team is picked on the basis of colour they shouldn't be allowed to play. And that's exactly what's happening in Zimbabwe.

"I'm disappointed that the one-day series went on. The same logic that applied to the cancellation of the Tests applied here also. I'm a bit unclear as to why they played the one-day series. As a player you look to your board and the ICC to make these tough decisions."

But Ponting is standing by his team's choice to play Zimbabwe, compromised selection process and all. "I've got no doubt it was the right decision," he said upon arriving home on Monday.

"We went there to do our job, which is to play cricket. We didn't get involved in anything political but that's not saying we turned a blind eye."

Australia's vice-captain Adam Gilchrist also defended the tour, while acknowledging that it rated among the least meaningful of his career. "The positive to take out is that it has exposed cracks in the system and posed questions that need to be answered in a strong fasion. Hopefully the ICC will be able to do that."

Waugh is visiting India as a brand ambassador for the insurance company AMP Sanmar. He took the time to open up on various other contentious issues.

On several people, including John Howard, the Australian prime minister, calling Muttiah Muralitharan a chucker
Who's called him a chucker? I'm not sure John Howard called him a chucker, I didn't hear him say it so I can't comment on it. But, I can say it's for the ICC to make the decision. It's not up to me or you or John Howard to make that call. They're the governing body and they have to decide. They've done some tests recently that have shown that the doosra is a problem and he can no longer bowl it. I think he's a better bowler when he just bowls offspin and does not bowl the doosra. I think it will make him a more dangerous bowler. It's a great achievement to get the world record. He should be celebrated for the fact that he's taken so many wickets. He makes Sri Lanka a very competitive side, he gets people through the gate to watch the game, and he's also a nice guy.

On Sourav Ganguly's suggestion of a two-tier system for Tests
I think it's worthy of consideration. It's a good idea for one-day cricket because there are more sides playing that, and they're looking to inject more sides all the time. For Test cricket though, I'm not so sure. There are only nine or ten sides, so if you split them up into two tiers the teams will get sick and tired of playing the same opposition year in and year out. I'm not sure how the teams in the lower tier will improve enough to move up. If you look at the history of Test cricket there have always been weak sides. Remember New Zealand took 26 years to win a Test match. I think we're getting a bit carried away because a couple of sides aren't doing too well.

On the proposed innovations and changes to one-day cricket
In domestic cricket in Australia we've tried a number of things. We had 12 players interchangeable and that worked very well. We had different fielding restrictions. I think most players would welcome the possibility that you can change the rules and improvise a bit. Perhaps one-day cricket does stagnate sometimes.

On failing to conquer `the final frontier', a Test series win in India
First of all, I'm not sure I ever said winning in India was the final frontier. Someone said it, made it up and it stuck. But it's not a bad line. I didn't play a lot of Test cricket in India. After the tied Test in 1986 there was a gap of eight or nine years and that's a ridiculously long time. I'm more than happy with what we achieved in India in my career. I think I played in probably the greatest Test series ever when we were last here, and we won the World Cup in 1987.

On who he thought are the second-best team in the world
I don't think there's much value in being No. 2. Anyone can lay claim to it, and I'm not sure who really is. India have to be somewhere in the running on current form - they drew in Australia and won in Pakistan. England are playing well. South Africa will be a force again shortly as well. Pakistan are unpredictable - at any time they can beat anyone.

On the Australians playing their cricket aggressively
I don't think we're aggressive. I think we play in the right spirit. Most Australians are very approachable and happy-go-lucky, but once you get them on the field the gloves are off. We play hard, we play to win, we play fair and we play with spirit and passion. That's just the way Australians play, even if it is in the backyard against our brothers. That's the way we're brought up.

On the state of Test cricket at present
I think Test cricket is in a pretty healthy state. The cricket that's being played at the moment is among the most aggressive that has been played in the history of Test cricket. There are results almost all the time and it's exciting. Perhaps we need to do something to help the bowlers. They seem to be struggling at the moment. The pitches are very flat, the outfields are getting smaller and the bats bigger so you probably have to keep an eye out in that direction.

On Brian Lara's record-breaking 400 not out
It's an outstanding personal achievement. To hold the world record twice and score 400 is like being Roger Bannister, the first runner to break the four-minute mile. It is a record that may never be broken again. You have to have a great level of skill, concentration and desire to get there. And particularly in a losing side it's a great effort.

On being invited to light the cauldron at the Athens Olympic games
I thought that was a secret till I saw it in the papers this morning. That is a massive honour. I can't believe I've been chosen to do that. When the Olympics were held in Australia I was involved in the torch relay. I carried down George Street, one of the main streets in Sydney with 500 people watching, and that was one of the highlights of my life so I can't imagine what it's going to be like to actually light the cauldron.

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