With less than 12 months to go for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in UK, legendary Australia captain Steve Waugh has picked England as his favourite team and even has expressed his desire to lead them.
Waugh, who is the last captain to lift the World Cup trophy on English soil, also conceded that defending champions Australia won't enter next year's campaign among the favorites.
Waugh’s remarks are justified considering the fact that England are the current World No.1 ODI side, having won 17 of their last 21 matches over the past year while Australia are in the midst of their worst ever losing streak, having lost 16 of their last 18 ODIs.
"I think that’s great if you’ve got confidence and belief, and that’s what they’ve got right now. The only thing, I guess, against England right now is that opposition will be studying the way they’re playing. They’ll be analysing every moment so they’ll have much better game plans against England going forward. That will be their challenge, how to stay that one step in front,” Waugh told cricket.com.au.
"But if I was in their shoes, if you asked me which (team) I’d like to be captaining right now, I’d like to be captaining the England one-day side. Because they’re playing a great brand of cricket, they’re a very together side, I can’t see the make-up of the team changing much and they’re playing at home. Everything’s in their favour. You always say you want to peak and get momentum into a tournament, but there’s nothing wrong with having momentum in the first game either," he added.
Australia are presently struggling with the fitness of their pace bowlers in addition to the suspension of their batting stars (Steve Smith and David Warner). The duo of Smith and Warner are currently serving their 12-month suspension for their involvement in the ball-tampering plot at Newlands in March.
Nonetheless, Waugh feels the majority of the team will remain the same and successive losses might take a toll on team morale.
"Even if it's not your best side, there’s still seven or eight players there who are going to be in your best team and they’ve lost a lot of cricket," Waugh pointed out.
"That’s going to take a while to turn around. So going into next year’s World Cup, our preparation is going to be disjointed. We are definitely not going to be one of the favourites going there,” he explained.
Steve Waugh also maintained that Australia will have to select Smith and Warner irrespective of their form and how much top-level of cricket the pair might have played in advance.
He gave the example of Tom Moody and Paul Reiffel, who were not picked in the preliminary 30-man Australia squad for 2019 World Cup. However, Waugh had insisted for their inclusion in the team considering the amount of experience both the cricketers had at that time.
"Moody was out of the original 30-man squad, and I made a phone call to (then selection chair) Trevor Hohns saying 'look, I think we’re going to need him there and we’re going to need players like (experienced seamer) Paul Reiffel'," Waugh recalled.
"You do need experience in those big match conditions, and while you want some young players there of course, you need the hard heads in World Cup finals and World Cup semi-finals. And that’s why someone like Smith and Warner will be crucial to our chances," he concluded.