Kolkata: Aussie Test skipper Steve Waugh on Monday rated Australia, hosts South Africa and Pakistan as favourites for next year's World Cup.
''Australia has the finest of teams. South Africa, being the hosts, would be tough to beat, while Pakistan is a well-balanced side,'' Waugh told a press conference on his arrival in the city. The star cricketer, who is on a two-day visit to the metropolis on charity work, however, hastened to add that none of the sides among the 16 participating nations could be counted out. ''In Limited Over engagements, any team which plays well on a given day emerges triumphant.
Moreover, the tournament is still about six months away during which all the sides will be playing a lot of matches,'' he said. Waugh also referred to India's victory in the just-concluded NatWest Trophy. ''They played excellently in England,'' he said. The Aussie, who has been dropped from his country's One-day side along with twin brother Mark, said he was trying very hard to make a comeback into the national squad. ''I'll use every opportunity to stage a comeback. I'll be playing the first game for New South Wales (NSW) in our domestic tourney soon and I'll give my best,'' he said.
He said the Aussie selectors had picked up young players who were extremely talented. When a journalist pointed out that the Australian middle order had collapsed more than once against Pakistan in the One-dayers last month, he said, ''I can't say that they have a bad combination just because myself and Mark are out of the side. But I'm waiting for my chance.'' Waugh refused to comment when asked to name his favourite for the Indian cricketer of the century award in the poll being conducted by the 'Wisden Asia' magazine.
The Australian cricketer, who has a four-year association with Udayan, a home for children of the leprosy affected at Barrackpore near here, has returned to the city to select a suitable plot for a fresh philanthrophic venture. After having sponsored the construction of the girl's wing of 'Udayan' - Nivedita Bhavan - Waugh now proposes to set up another home for daughters of leprosy patients along with a non-voluntary organisation 'Calcutta Foundation'. "Two spots have been initially short listed. The final decision will be taken in consultation with Steve," Foundation chairperson Shamlu Dudeja, who was instrumental in getting Waugh associated with Udayan, said.
Waugh, the quintessential modest man, said that he only acted as a figurehead in the charity projects. ''The main job is done by others.''He disclosed that several persons in Australia have evinced keen interest to help him in his mission. A 97-year old lady had last week sent him her whole life's savings of $ 5000 in her bid to help the needy, the Aussie recalled.