IND vs AUS: 'Virat Kohli won't forget that he didn't get enough runs in 2017,' says Steve Waugh
Former Australia skipper Steve Waugh feels resumption of Virat v Smith battle will be interesting Down Under considering the Aussie had excelled in 2017
As India captain Virat Kohli turned 32 on Thursday, he'd be glad to know that one of Australia's most successful captains, Steve Waugh, has thrown his weight behind him to come good in the upcoming series Down Under.
Waugh, 55, an authoritative and gritty skipper back in the day, believes the India captain will be well aware that he didn't score too many runs when Australia last visited India for a Test series (Kohli scored just 46 runs in three Tests in 2017) and was overshadowed by Steven Smith, who scored nearly 500 runs including three centuries. The following year, Kohli did well Down Under but there was no Smith in that Australian line-up. So this time, Waugh says, Kohli will have extra motivation to do well in the four-Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy series, beginning December 17 at Adelaide.
Waugh, the last Australian captain to win the Ashes in England (2001), knows what it takes to win on foreign soil, having toured India seven times, enjoying considerable success and being part of Australia's 1987 World Cup-winning team in Kolkata. Despite his all-round praise for Team India, he feels the Aussies will win the series 2-1.
In an interview with mid-day, speaking about his new photography book, The Spirit of Cricket—India, Waugh highlights his love for cricketing sights and sounds here and his 18-day journey in January, when he shot amateur cricketers in their full glory right from the maidans of Mumbai to the narrow backstreets of Kolkata, the deserts of Rajasthan and the foothills of the Himalayas.
The India vs Australia Test series is being touted as the battle between two of the world's best batsmen, Kohli and Smith. Who do you think will come up trumps?
I know Virat will be very keen because the last time Australia went to India, Smith dominated the batting. He got a lot of runs  and as many as three centuries [averaging over 70], while Virat didn't score many. So, I'm sure Virat has a long memory and he will want to correct that this time round. Both will score an equal amount of runs.
And what do you make of the battle of the spinners—R Ashwin and Nathan Lyon?
Both are excellent bowlers with amazing records but Ashwin would like to prove himself in Australian conditions. It's different from bowling in the sub-continent. Both are key players, capable of bowling long overs, don't give too many runs, can be match-winners and decide the outcome of the series. But then, there can also be someone like [Mitch] Swepson. He's a leg-spinner and the in-form bowler. He could make his debut and be the surprise package that no one saw coming. [Queenslander Swepson has taken 15 wickets in two Sheffield Shield matches this season, averaging 20.33].
You've made no less than seven tours to India as a cricketer. Tell us about those experiences both on and off the field.
As a cricketer, coming to India tested you in every way. It tested your skill as a cricketer, it tested your patience when you're away from the field and just to realise that people are so fanatical about cricket. Wherever you went, there was always someone waving a photo or waiting for an autograph because they love cricket. So, your personal space was no longer really your personal space with people always around you.
On the pitch, the Indian sides in my era right from 1986 were great teams. In my first Test [1985-86], I remember I looked behind me and there was Syed Kirmani [wicketkeeper], then around me there was Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri, Kapil Dev, all these legends of Indian cricket in one team. Then, from around 2004 onwards, I feel India had its greatest-ever batting line up. And currently, India has its best ever bowling squad.
Australia were without David Warner and Smith in 2018-19 when India claimed the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Do you feel their presence will tilt the scales in favour of the hosts in this series?
The presence of Steve and David will surely help but there's also Marnus Labuschagne. He's the in-form batsman and has become world-class in the last 12 months. He has been unstoppable. He's a fast learner and is modeling his game on Steven Smith. He has the right attitude and an insatiable appetite for runs. So, three world-class batsmen make the batting automatically stronger. They are also capable of taking 20 wickets, so this is a world-class Australian team. You have two of the best Test sides in the world dueling like it's a heavyweight title and whoever wins it, will definitely be the No. 1 Test outfit in the world.
Have you been watching the IPL and what do you make of the Super Over concept? Having been a part of the historic 1986 Tied Test, do you reckon T20s should also be allowed to end in ties?
I've not seen the IPL much as I'm more of a Test match fan. I do catch glimpses though and it's great what the IPL has done for players and everyone involved across the last decade. It has brought new fans to the game. I would have loved to play in it. About the Super Over, I'd rather have a tie because both sides deserve something from it. Also, there's just too much luck involved in just one over. Maybe, extend it to a couple of overs or even have a bowling competition that determines which team has the more accurate bowlers.
Tell us about your journey as a photographer. Is it tougher than playing on the rank turners in India?
It's very tough playing on the rank turners in India but let me tell you photography is equally, if not more, tough. Working on this photography book has taken a lot of hard work because I wanted to make it most special. So I took a really good mentor and coach in Trent Parke, a photographer from Magnum photo agency, one of the prestigious groups in the world. Trent told me that photography is just like setting a field or a trap for a batsman. You got to wait and watch, then eventually, it hopefully happens. Initially, there were things like getting the perfect light, checking the shutter speed and aperture that I didn't know about, so it was a huge learning curve.
You must be thanking your stars that you came to shoot in India just before the COVID-19 pandemic?
Someone was on our side because we were here in January for 18 days and were so busy with our work that we didn't know the outside world existed. And then, on the way home at Singapore airport, all were wearing masks and we knew this [pandemic] is a big issue.
A lot is expected of Cameron Green. How good is he?
He's got a lot of potential – he's an all-rounder, who is already capable of playing for Western Australia both as a batsman or as a bowler at the age of 20...now that's a rarity. He's got the height, he's got temperament, technique – all the attributes, it won't be long before he'll be playing regularly for Australia.
You have spoken about some Australian photographers you have admired over the years but many cricket fans in India have cherished the work of Englishman Patrick Eagar. Are you an admirer of his images?
Interestingly, one of my favourite shots of myself was taken by Patrick at Lord's when I had a front foot defensive shot and that became a famous one. He always seems to be in the right place at the right moments and that takes experience, know-how, instinct and intuition.
Steve Waugh's The Spirit of Cricket—India can be purchased on www.stevewaugh.com.au
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