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Waugh's sound advice to Smith

Former Test great reveals the harshest reality a captain must accept to reach the top

Former Australian Test captain Steve Waugh has advised current skipper Steve Smith to not get bogged down by the divisive pink-ball, day-night Test debate, saying the mentally tougher team invariably wins matches regardless of the conditions.

Waugh, who won 41 of the 57 Tests he led Australia in until his retirement in 2004, is an unabashed supporter of Smith but he wondered how much of a toll the 27-year-old’s recent workload might be taking.

"I don’t think he’s made too many mistakes since he’s taken over the captaincy,” Waugh told cricket.com.au.

"It’s been a huge learning curve but he also has the challenge of captaining three different forms of the game, which very few captains do these days.

"Admittedly, the only question mark is mentally how much the last six months has taken [out of him].

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"I think [the demands can] become mentally draining because of the challenges associated with [captaining three national teams] where you have three different groups of players coming in-and-out of the teams.

"So, you need good people around you, you need good support from the coaches and from senior players. However, from what I’ve seen Steve seems to be handling the pressures very well."

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Waugh said Smith - who petitioned for the next Ashes series in Australia to not include a pink-ball day-night Test - would help himself by not being side-tracked by some issues, although he appreciated that was sometimes easier said than done.

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"When you play, you get caught up with what’s going on … it might be the ball you’re using  or whether it is playing in a day-night Test,” said Waugh. “But when you finish up you go ‘it probably doesn’t really matter all that much because the best team is still going to win’.

"If you have the skills and you are mentally tough you’re going to do well in any conditions.

"I would tell Steve to just back yourself whatever you confront whether it is the pink ball or a day-night Test, if you have the skill level you’re still going to win. I think sometimes we make too much of a mistake [in worrying] that the conditions aren’t perfect but you realize ‘we just have to get on with it’."     

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Waugh, who played 168 Tests and 325 one-day internationals said his own experience of the demands associated with captaining Australia would suggest Smith will need a complete break once the current ODI tri-series underway in the Caribbean is completed.

"I didn’t have [to worry about] three forms, I had the two and the captaincy was taken away from me for the one-day stuff for the last couple of years,” he said.

"It’s all-encompassing and there’s a lot expected of you; you have to do things like front the media, and I think I did more media than the captains who came after me ... they tend to share the workload [among the players] with the press and that’s a good thing.

"For me it was getting away up the coast to our holiday place and doing some fishing for a couple of days and getting away from the phone and the technology. That’s the hardest thing these days, you need an escape where you can fish, read a book, watch a movie to get away from cricket and recharge the batteries."

Meg Lanning Steve Smith