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Monday, August 16, 1999 Published at 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK

Sport: Cricket

Waugh leads champions back into action

Steve Waugh and Shane Warne show off the World Cup to an adoring public

As Australia prepare to return to competitive action for the first time since their World Cup triumph, skipper Steve Waugh speaks to BBC News Online.

Two months after basking in the glory of a stunning World Cup victory, Steve Waugh and Australia are ready to come back down to earth.

The celebrations long since finished, Waugh now leads his team on one of the least glamorous tours in the international calendar.

On Monday the world champions flew to Sri Lanka, where they will first take part in a triangular one-day competition involving their hosts and India, before playing three Test matches.

The team then head off for their first ever Test match against Zimbabwe.

[ image: Michael Slater hooks Damien Fleming during Australia's pre-tour practice]
Michael Slater hooks Damien Fleming during Australia's pre-tour practice
But while the events of the coming weeks are hardly likely to capture the public imagination of those heady days in England in June, Waugh is undeterred.

He believes the players will have no problems with motivation, having had a long break since their World Cup heroics.

"I don't really think about tours until I get to the training camp," the captain admitted.

"Once I do that we really switch on and give it 100%. That's what all the guys do.

"When we do get together we start focusing. When you're an experienced player you know how much time you can have off without training."

Rebuilding process

Sri Lanka's disappointing World Cup defence and the subsequent changes in their team will not make the trip any less difficult, Waugh believes.

"They've got a lot of good young players, they'll be fired up to do well and take their chance in the team.

"Things are starting to change and when that happens you give guys opportunities. They'll be keen to do well against us and we've got a good rivalry with the Sri Lankans."

[ image: Stuart MacGill: Could force national hero Warne out of the team]
Stuart MacGill: Could force national hero Warne out of the team
There have been security worries over the tour following recent bombings in the country, but Waugh is confident there will be no problems.

"Obviously there's an element of danger," he said. "But I'm happy with the security, that's part of touring life these days. You've just got to put up with it, learn to live with it and trust the people around you."

Coverage of Australian team selection has been dominated by leg-spinners Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill.

Warne was dropped in favour of MacGill during Australia's tour to the West Indies, but he proved during the World Cup he was back to his best following shoulder surgery.

Waugh refused to be drawn on which of the two might play: "It's a long way off and it's a question I'm sure I'm going to get enough headaches over."

Places up for grabs

There are selection problems elsewhere. At the top of the order, the retired Mark Taylor has still not been replaced.

[ image: Test hopeful Matthew Hayden hits out in the nets on Sunday]
Test hopeful Matthew Hayden hits out in the nets on Sunday
Matthew Elliott has been discarded after a disappointing return to the side in the West Indies and now Matthew Hayden gets another chance after recent good performances in England with Northants.

"You can't find a replacement overnight for someone like Taylor," Waugh commented.

"We've got a lot of good players and it's not going to be a worry. Someone will slot in there eventually and take the opportunity.

"Hayden and Greg Blewett are both excellent players and I'm sure one of those will have a long career there."

The triumphant one-day side has remained intact for the tour, except for Paul Reiffel, who has announced his international retirement.

"He'll be missed as a very good player," Waugh said, "But the game goes on."

Maiden match

Waugh is also looking forward to Australia's first ever Test encounter with Zimbabwe. "They deserve the opportunity, they've done really well over the last couple of years.

[ image: Steve Waugh remains the Australians' most reliable batsman]
Steve Waugh remains the Australians' most reliable batsman
"They've got a good structure. I know the pitches are reasonably slow, similar to New Zealand pitches."

One thing that Waugh and his team take into the tour is the realisation of the importance of cricket to the Australian people. It was summed up by their welcome following the World Cup win.

"It was bigger and better than we thought it was going to be. I think when you're way from your own country you don't realise how huge something is.

"A lot of people follow cricket very closely so you do have a big responsibility . The feedback you get after winning the World Cup makes you realise how many people do support the team. The players have learned a lot from that."

The captain will be hoping to return home with further victories under his belt in two months' time.

Australian squads:

Test: Steve Waugh (cap), Shane Warne (vc), Michael Slater, Greg Blewett, Justin Langer, Mark Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Ian Healy, Stuart MacGill, Glenn McGrath, Damien Fleming, Jason Gillespie, Colin Miller, Simon Katich.

One-day: Steve Waugh (cap), Shane Warne (vc), Mark Waugh, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Darren Lehmann, Michael Bevan, Tom Moody, Damien Fleming, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds, Adam Dale.

Tour schedule:
Sunday August 22. Sri Lanka, Galle, One Day International
Monday August 23, India, Galle, ODI
Thursday August 26, Sri Lanka, Colombo, ODI
Saturday August 28, India, Colombo, ODI
Tuesday August 31, Australia/India/Sri Lanka, Colombo, ODI final.
Monday September 13, Sri Lanka, Kandy, First Test
Sunday September 26, Sri Lanka, Galle, Second Test
Sunday October 3, Sri Lanka, Colombo, Third Test
Monday October 18, Zimbabwe, Test, Harare
Thursday October 21, Zimbabwe, Bulawayo, 1st ODI
Saturday October 23, Zimbabwe, Harare, 2nd ODI
Sunday October 23, Zimbabwe, Harare, 3rd ODI

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