Australia will start favourites when India travel Down Under later this year due to a full-strength batting line-up and a more settled bowling attack, former captain Steve Waugh said on Sunday. Virat Kohli’s side scripted history by winning a Test series on the Australian soil in 2019 but the triumph came in the absence of David Warner and Steve Smith, who were then serving bans for their role in the ball-tampering scandal. Waugh, while speaking to PTI on the sidelines of Laureus Awards ceremony, said he would take nothing away from India’s victory but this time it will be different.
“Australia will be the favourite I think. We know the pitches well and day night Test is gong to be something relatively new for India. I like the way Virat Kohli is taking that challenge. If you want be the best side in the world, you have to win away from home as much as possible,” the 54-year-old said.
“You can’t take away from India winning last time but Australia did not have the best batsmen. Marnus Labuschagne has come out of nowhere, the bowling looks much settled now. India do not have weaknesses too, so it’s potentially to be a great series,” he added.
India is set to play a four-match Test series in Australia in December 2020-January 2021.
There has been a debate about the ambiguity regarding the World Test Championship format but Waugh said as of now it is the best possible start.
The teams locked in a two-match Test series also get 120 points while a five-match series also offers the same number of points.
Asked if it is a fair rule, Waugh said, “We talked about having a Test Championship for a decade now and it’s exceptionally hard to make it work because the schedules are being planned five, 10 years ahead. I think they have done the best possible job.”
When pressed that India would always start favourite against a West Indies or a Bangladesh side but they get the same points which a gruelling Ashes series offers, he still backed the current format.
“Let a genius come up with a solution because it’s so hard to find the right criteria. Right now it’s good. Maybe we can tweak after the first Championship and right now it’s ok to get started. I can guarantee you that the best two sides will be in the final,” said Waugh who led Australia to 1999 World Cup triumph.
So, who he is backing to win the inaugural World Test Championship? “It will be clear when India come down to Australia. Australia will be peaking at that time. India is peaking in the last 12 months, it’s going to be an amazing series.”
Recently, Indian icon Sachin Tendulkar gave a huge compliment to fast rising Marnus Labuschagne by saying that the Australian batsman reminds of himself.
However, Waugh did not agree with Tendulkar though he praised the young batsman.
“May be he wants to put him off. I don’t think so. In my opinion, he has appetite for runs. When he came to the side 12 months ago, he was 26th but now he is fourth ranked Test player batsmen in the world, so it’s incredible transformation.”
Waugh also backed Tim Paine to continue as Test captain though a few feel that maybe the responsibility could be handed back to Steve Smith.
“Why we need to change the leadership, Tim Paine is doing a great job. We need to show him more respect. He has come in at a tough time. He is a captain for future, he is in his mid-30s but that does not mean he can’t captain for a few years. Asking this question means we are not paying respect to the current captain.
“Smith will be in running when next captaincy role comes up but there are number of factors to be considered, like how many runs he is scoring, if he wants to be captain. There will be lot of questions asked when Tim Paine moves on,” he said.