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January 21, 2000


India Down Under

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Editor's note: As you are probably aware, the Fairfax Group of Newspapers in Australia, as represented online by, is partners with Rediff for the ongoing tour of Australia. As part of the service, Scott Spitts of The Pavilion responds to questions from Indian fans. We present the first instalment -- and those who are interested in asking Scott questions relating to the game are invited to send them in, to the email address at the end of this article.

Karthik Murali, Chennai: On the scale of Australian captains, where would you rank Steve Waugh? What is being seen as his strengths, and his weaknesses? There was talk a while earlier that Warne would be the better leader, especially in ODIs - does that perception still hold good?

In my mind, Steve Waugh already ranks as a great Australian captain. He has incredible mental strength and tremendous leadership skills. Some would suggest he is a tad predictable but his record speaks for itself. Shane Warne is a contender for the Australian captaincy but with others in the side such as Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist, Warne is unlikely to get an opportunity.

Australia will always be better off with the same captain for both versions of the game. Providing Waugh can hold his position in the one-day and Test Match arenas, he should remain leader. If the Aussies were to slip in either forms of the game, then I'm sure Waugh would come under scrutiny. It won't happen for some time.

Swapna P, Melbourne: Before this season began there had been much hype that Adam Gilchrist was captaincy material for the future. When Warne got injured, however, the Aus selectors made Ponting - who in the past has had his share of problems, mainly discipline - the vice-captain. What's the thinking here, and do you see Ponting as a captain for the future?

There is a school of thought that Ponting has matured tremendously since his infamous incident at the Bourbon and Beefsteak Bar. Regardless, the decision on the next Australian captain will be a very tough one. I would suggest Steve Waugh will remain captain for the next 2-3 years and selectors may opt for Gilchrist ahead of Ponting at that stage. It's an incredibly tough decision. Certainly, what happens between now and then will have a large bearing on the selectors' thinking. Get on Gilchrist, I say.

Rajesh M, Mumbai: When Australia toured India last, a few umpiring decisions went against them. Now, it is India and Pakistan getting a few going against them Down Under - as I watch, Bevan appears to have got the benefit of non-existent doubt against Akthar. Though there is an attempt to paint sub-continental umpires as inept, this happens all over the world. Is there a solution? Should umpires' performance be evaluated by match referees, in order to weed out incompetent officials? Or will neutrals at both ends be the solution? Do you think we should have two neutral umpires instead of one in the future series? Also, does neutral umpiring really help?

Umpiring decisions have clearly been one of the main issues of the summer. They are always bound to be a bone of contention. I feel some of the Indian players have been dealt an unfair hand on occasions. However, I think it is time to rule out conspiracy theories. Home town decisions happen, in different sports across the world. Umpires are human, swayed by the noise of the crowd and other factors. It generally evens itself out. Having two neutral umpires is unnecessary, except in the one-day World Cup, of course. I know this won't end the debate. Perhaps it will inflame it.

Paddy: Do you think that this side is perhaps the best Aussie side in the last 20 years? How do you compare it with Border's 87 team that won the World Cup? Please comment.

This is probably the best Australian side of the past 20 years with genuine stars in Steve Waugh, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. The next line includes quality players such as Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting. With emerging players such as Adam Gilchrist and Brett Lee having great summers, things look very rosy. Instead of concentrating on the 1987 Australian team which won the World Cup, it is better to look at the team which toured England in 1989, featuring the likes of David Boon, Dean Jones, Terry Alderman and Geoff Lawson. However, the current crop has shown an ability to win (often comfortably) in various locations, not just England.

Ramanan, Chennai: With rain disrupting play at Supersport Park Centurion, in the 5th Test, South Africa and England agreed to forfeit an innings apiece and let the game be decided on the basis of one innings to each team. Do you think such on-field, mid-match decisions that go against the basic rules of the game should be allowed in the interests of getting a dynamic game? Where would you draw the line, when it comes to permitting such innovative on-field decisions aimed at forcing a result?

It was a bold, brave move by both teams. They gave the fans a chance to witness something they love - a result. The series was over, the match was a dead rubber. To use a cliche, it was good for cricket. Nobody was inconvenienced. Sure, South Africa's winning streak at home ended but the Proteas had a good chance to win another Test. There should be more of it. It was certainly not match-fixing!

Send in your questions to Scott Spitts