New Delhi:Cricketer-turned-philanthropist Steve Waugh is so convinced of the evenness of India and Australia's might that he has predicted a 4-3 scoreline for the winners in the forthcoming ODI series.
The former Australia captain had no doubts whatsoever that despite India's recent poor show in the Champions Trophy, the team under Mahendra Singh Dhoni would match Ricky Ponting and his men blow for blow and both stood equal chance of winning the seven-match series.
"It will be a tough series," Waugh told reporters on Friday.
"I saw the Australian squad and they have recruited some new faces. It's going to be exciting. Australia is really in great form and though India disappointed in the Champions Trophy, I guess the result would be 4-3 in favour of, well, I don't know which team," he quipped.
The Australian is here in connection with the Steve Waugh Foundation, which is raising money, in association with 6UP, to help kids with rare diseases.
The Indian team under Dhoni has drawn flak after setbacks in the Twenty20 World Cup and the Champions Trophy but Waugh has not lost his trust in the side.
"The Indians are harsh judge. You cannot win every match. India don't become best when they win and don't become worst when they lose. It's probably somewhere in between (the extremes).
"The team is in good shape and a lot of youngsters have come up. IPL threw up a host of new players and they should remain among the top three teams," Waugh said.
Waugh also threw his weight behind out-of-form Ishant Sharma, saying the beanpole pacer would serve Indian cricket for long.
"Ishant is a top class bowler who even though he is going through a bit down now. Any team would love to have him in their side.
"He reminds me a bit of both (Glenn) McGrath and (Jason) Gillespie. He will be there for a long time," Waugh said.
Asked to comment on Matthew Hayden's observation that Dhoni's captaincy reminded him of Waugh's leadership, the former skipped quipped, "Dhoni must be a great captain then."
On a more serious note, Waugh said, "I have seen him from a far, have not played against his captaincy. But he is a good captain, has got a good temperament and looks in control of the team. He enjoys the respect of his teammates and has got a positive attitude."
Waugh was the proponent of the 'mental disintegration' theory that saw the Australians bully their opponents before crushing them to defeat.
In contrast, the current team seemed more relaxed in the Champions Trophy, smiling more and sledging less.
Asked if Australia had finally become the popular champions they never were before, Waugh did not sound amused.
"We Australians play the game our own way, that is hard and fair. People tend to forget that whenever oppositions like Bangladesh came to us seeking help on cricketing matters, we always accommodated them. And there were plenty of guys smiling in my time," Waugh said.
"It's just that we played the game hard and fair and if we don't play the game that way, we would not play well," he said.
Talking about IPL, Waugh said he had received a couple of coaching offers but refused for want of time.
"The work I'm currently busy with requires 40-hour-a-week. In any passion, be it sports, business or philanthropy, you have to work properly and give 100 per cent," he said.
On the growing popularity of Twenty20 and the threat it poses to other formats, Waugh said, "Twenty20 is going through its honeymoon phase, I'll give my verdict 12 months later when a clearer picture emerges.
"There are three formats of the gave and Twenty20 requires special set of skills. But top players like Rahul Dravid would adjust to all three formats of the game because they have got the required skill and the mental toughness," he added.