Former captain Steve Waugh said he understands the struggle that current crop of Australian players are going through. Tim Paine’s side is going through a rough phase in the absence of banned Steve Smith and David Warner, and have been very inconsistent in the last 12 months or so.Waugh himself made his Test debut in 1985 after Australia lost to West Indies and New Zealand, and were even trounced in the Ashes.

“It’s hard, I’ve been there before when I first started playing for Australia,” Waugh told today as India forged to stumps at 303 for 4 on Day 1 of the fourth and final Test.

“I didn’t play in a winning Test until my thirteenth Test match.

“It’s difficult when you’re trying really hard, and nothing’s working and everyone’s got an opinion. You feel this intense pressure.

“Chopping and changing the order is probably not the ideal situation, you want to give guys a bit of faith and a bit of consistency but obviously they had to make a change at the top of the order.”

Cricket Australia has been currently criticised for scheduling Big Bash League in between Sheffield Shield. Waugh too was befuddled with the fact that how can someone pick in-form players for the Test series if there’s no domestic red-ball competition going on.

“If you look at the selection for this Test match, there are no Shield matches being played – how do you (judge) form?

“I heard someone say the other day that (Peter) Handscomb got a good 60 in the BBL, so he should be picked for the next Test match. Whilst he has been picked, I hope that’s (not the reason) he got picked for a Test match because it should be on his previous form in Shield cricket and what he can do in the longer version of the game.

“But it is very difficult when the whole month of December is basically BBL and when you’re playing Test matches.

“So how do you pick a guy in form if they haven’t played any four-day cricket?”

The 53-year-old said he is constantly in touch with the players and team management, passing them wisdom and insights.

“I keep in contact with the guys and send them regular messages,” Waugh said. “I think it’s really important to give them positive feedback when they’re doing it tough.

“I know that we weren’t winning and things weren’t going well, everyone tends to desert you – when you win, there’s a lot of messages. I learned from that, that I’d like to give the guys support when they need it.

“So I do try to keep in touch with Justin and Tim Paine, and try to keep it positive and upbeat and say ‘look, you’ve got to work through this, keep gutsing it out, working hard and doing the basics, and you’ll turn it around eventually’.”

Waugh believes all this can change if young players like Marcus Harris, Travis Head or Marnus Labuschagne goes onto to score a century in the first innings of the Sydney Test.

“This Test match, I want to see one or two of the young guys score a hundred,” Waugh said. “Once they do that, it will be a breakthrough and they can all feed off that.

“Much like we did in the first Test match at Headingley in 1989 when Mark Taylor got a hundred, I got my first century and we didn’t look back after that.

“So it just needs one of the young guys to make a breakthrough, whether it’s Harris or Labuschagne or Head, I’d love to see one of those guys get a hundred in the first innings here.”

First Published: January 3, 2019, 4:42 PM IST