Waugh defends players' tour preferences

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The Independent Online

Alec Stewart and Darren Gough may appear like a pair of rebels now, but they could just be reinforcing a worldwide precedent, first set by Jonty Rhodes, with their decision to opt out of the tour to India.

According to Steve Waugh and Shane Warne, individual decisions such as the England pair's are likely to become more commonplace. After savouring victory in the fifth Test here yesterday to complete a 4-1 series victory, Australia captain Waugh said: "I think things will change in the future.

"It is always hard for the first ones to make a stand, everyone tends to jump up and down about it. I think in time administrators and selectors are going to have to make certain exceptions for certain players.

"The thing is they've got to be players who want to go. They have to be 100 per cent committed to going there. It is a heavy commitment touring particularly when you have a family. We have 85 days in South Africa and Zimbabwe coming up, on top of the 96 days we have been over here on the Ashes tour. But your family has a right to be a part of your life. And cricket does not have the right to rule your life."

Warne, who passed 400 Test wickets during this final Test, added: "I don't think it is a black and white thing. Every case has to be taken on its individual merits. But I think down the track, when there is a big workload coming up, it might be common sense for certain players to opt out. I think down the track we will see more players doing that."

Warne had arrived in this country stating that he felt he had a new role in the team, that of a stock bowler rather than a strike bowler, after an indifferent performance in the series in India. But 31 wickets in the Ashes series suggest that he was anything but a stock bowler. That he has undergone a rebirth.

Waugh spotted it almost from the outset. "I disagreed with his view. He was switched on from day one of the tour at Worcester. He really wanted to show he was still a great cricketer. And once he got that first five-for, in the first Test at Edgbaston, he started to believe in himself again."

Warne admitted: "Coming over here always brings out the best in players. I also had six weeks off after India and that did me the world of good. I think today, in the second innings, it was the best I can bowl. I don't think I bowled more than two bad balls and I had it fizzing, which means the old turn is still there." And ominously for the rest of the cricket world, the great leg-spinner added: "I hope it means that the best is still ahead of me."

Meanwhile, having been thwarted in their efforts to take the original urn containing the Ashes back home with them, the Australians were plotting to burn one of the bails from this Test and put those ashes in a borrowed urn of North Queensland Aboriginal hardwood and take the DIY substitute back to Australia with them.