I feel sorry for Amir but glad that ICC took action

Updated: Feb 08, 2011, 20:25 PM IST

Steve Waugh feels sorry for young Pakistan pacer Mohammed Amir, who was handed a five-year ban for being involved in spot-fixing, but the former Australian skipper is glad that the ICC sent out a strong message by acting tough on corruption in international cricket.

Apart from the 18-year-old Amir, the ICC banned Pakistan’s former Test skipper Salman Butt and pacer Mohammad Asif for 10 and seven years respectively for their involvement in the spot-fixing scandal that shook international cricket last year.

“All I know is that ICC has stepped up and I am glad that they have acted. I feel sorry for Amir because he is a young kid. I am sure he would learn that he should not interact with certain people, be careful of certain individuals,” Waugh, who is here for the Laureus World Sports Awards as part of its jury member, said.

“As a young kid, I hope he takes the sentence positively and learns. Obviously it can be reduced as well.”

The two-time World Cup winning captain has been bombarded with queries on the various teams’ chances at the World Cup starting next week and though he has given Australia only an outside chance, Waugh said the focus would firmly be on the three-time defending champions once they land in the sub-continent.

“Nobody is talking about them right now but I am sure the focus will be on Australia once they come to India. They have had a good one-day series (against England). In fact their one-day form has been pretty good. So once they come, it will be like ‘hang on, Australia have a chance too’,” he said.

Ever since Shane Warne retired, Australia have been struggling for an elusive world-class spinner to replace him and given that the World Cup will be played on the dustbowls of the sub-continent, having a good slow bowler would be crucial.

But Waugh said Ricky Ponting’s team has enough good spinners to do the job.

“We have got enough spinners. They don’t have to be world-beaters, just doing their job well enough would do. In my assessment the likes of Nathan Hauritz are pretty capable,” he said.

His captaincy was grudgingly admired by even his detractors and of the current lot of international skippers, Waugh picked India’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara and West Indies’ Darren Sammy as his favourites.

“All three of them are pretty good. I am particularly impressed with Sammy, I think he can bring back the glory times of the West Indies team. He has the potential,” he said.

“About Dhoni, I like the fact that he stays calm. He has got the ability to stay cool even when 90,000 fans are going berserk behind him and that counts for a lot in a tense situation,” he added.

Asked to comment on the under-fire Ricky Ponting’s captaincy, Waugh said though his Test record can be questioned following the Ashes loss but one can’t question his record ODIs given that he has led Australia to two World Cup titles.

“You cannot fault his one-day captaincy. He has won two World Cups for us. But the jury is still out on his Test record after Ashes loss and all the doubts have centered on that only,” he said.

The scheduling of the World Cup, spread over a month and half, has been questioned by some players including England star Kevin Pietersen, but Waugh said with the fat pay cheques that current cricketers get, they should not be complaining too much.

“Look I think they would be better off if they stop complaining. They are being paid a lot of money and should not be talking too much about schedules. Get on and play. They are on pretty good wicket as far as money and everything else is concerned,” he said.

Asked whether the upcoming World Cup would belong to the bowlers or batsmen, Waugh said, “As far as I know, it will be a fielders’ World Cup. Holding on to catches would be as important as scoring runs.”

He has already given the favourites’ tag to India but Waugh feels South Africa too have a very good chance of lifting their maiden title even though the Proteas have a history of choking in big match situations.

“No one thinks they will win it. That takes the load off them and I don’t think they choke. Lot many other teams have choked. They are a good side and can win it,” he said.

PTI