Cricket can’t thrive with just three strong nations: Steve Waugh

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BERLIN: Former Australia captain Steve Waugh didn’t mince his words while talking to TOI on the sidelines of the Laureus World Sports Awards here.

Excerpts…

What is your take on the World Test Championship?

It is a great start. We (have) talked about having a Test championship for over a decade now but it’s exceptionally hard to make it work, because the schedules are being planned 5-10 years ahead.

The points system is quite ambiguous. You get 120 points whether you are playing a two-Test or a five-Test series…

I think they’ve done the best job possible. There are two-Test series and then there are series like the Ashes, but the players know the schedule. They know how many points are on offer. That doesn’t change how the teams play. If you’re good enough, you will still be among the two best teams and enter the World Test Championship final. Unless a genius comes up with a solution, we’ve to stick with it (the points system).

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Do you like the concept of four-day Tests?

Why change? There are too many changes going around these days. There is nothing wrong with tradition. Some of the best Test matches go till the fifth day. I think if the length of Test matches is reduced then the standard of cricket will drop. Spinners will go out of the game.

What’s your take on the ‘Big 3’ model, in which India, Australia and England dominate in both revenue-generation and share of profits?
There is no point having it if you just have three strong nations. We have to develop countries like Zimbabwe, Ireland, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Money needs to go to those countries too. I understand it’s a business and the ‘Big 3’ want more than everyone else, but if they want the game to thrive and survive, you definitely have to share and develop other countries.

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Your favourite for India-Australia series Down Under later this year?

Australia will be the favourites, I think. We know the pitches well; then there will be a day-night Test, which will be reasonably new for India. I like the fact the way Virat Kohli is taking on that challenge. If you want be the best side in the world, you have to win away from home as much as you can. India won 2-1 last time (in Australia) and you can’t take that away from India. But, that said, there are no major weaknesses in the current Australian side; so it is going to be a potentially great series.

Is the day-night Test here to stay?

It is great. It is a great opportunity, a great spectacle. One will never forget playing in a day-night Test in Australia. It’s got fantastic atmosphere. It is a new challenge and a chance for the greats of this generation to tick that box for them. It’s how you look at it – either it is a challenge or too hard. I’m sure India will see it as a challenge. It’s good for world cricket and I am glad that India have agreed to play.

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Don’t faster bowlers have a distinct advantage in day-night Tests?

It’s a good thing (that fast bowlers have an advantage). People in Australia love watching a day-night Test because you can’t take your eyes off the action. Every ball something might happen. It gives opportunity to the bowlers and good batsmen score runs. I think it is a great thing that the bowlers are more in the game – particularly in the night time when the conditions change a lot and you’ve really got to preserve your wickets. If you’re bowling, then you have to attack the wickets.

How do you assess the Indian fast bowling line-up in comparison with their Australian counterparts?
India has the best fast bowling line-up in the world when cricket is played in India, but Australian fast bowlers are deadly in Australia. When India come to Australia (at the end of this year), the Aussies will have a slight edge. But both teams know that the personnel that they have at their disposal can take 20 wickets.

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Your take on Jasprit Bumrah?

Bumrah is exceptional. He is a unique talent. It’s great that he wasn’t coached (orthodox) style, because a lot of coaches would have told him ‘you need to run in quicker, or you cannot bowl that way’. They’ve let him be natural, which is fantastic. He is an incredible asset for India, great stamina, accuracy, pace – he has got everything. He also seems to have pretty good temperament. He loves a challenge and loves leading the attack. Virat Kohli is very lucky to have him in the attack.”

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