This may surprise a few of my friends. (Its possible to have opinions and friends).But Steve Waugh is amongst my favourite cricketers. To the point of being amongst my favourite men.
It doesn’t matter that his brother was by far the more graceful bat. To the point that there were jokes about Afghanistan. (yeah, “the forgotten waugh”, very funny, ha ha , ok?).
The man was nowhere close to perfect. And I’m not going to ask you to look at his record because when you’ll see it and try to match it against his talent or people that seemed to have more, you’ll understand how to spell grit. Actually I really like that photo above because it captures him. You can see him in it. Pads – that red hanky to help him believe in himself a bit more, and that baggy green. What else did you need?
This post is an attempt – borrowed generously from all sorts of sources – at summing up a lot of what Steve Waugh brought to Australian cricket. It’s unlikely that it will be successful in conveying it.
Its a little bit about the last Test of his career. Australia was playing India. And the final game of the series (locked 1-1) was to be played in Sydney.
As that final Test for Steve Waugh approached, many cricket writers focussed on trying to tabulate precisely what he had achieved, and though it wasn’t easy, the stats – always beloved by the cricket world – bore testimony to the fact that Steve Waugh’s command had indeed been one out of the box. He had been in charge for a total of fifty-six Tests and his side had won no fewer than forty-one of them, giving him a win rate of just over 70 per cent, which compared wonderfully well with Border’s 34 and Taylor’s 52 per cent.
One writer, Steven Lynch noted that while Waugh was ‘handed a pretty useful lineup by Mark Taylor.. nonetheless, under Waugh the team underwent a further transformation: they lost less, drew less, won even more and scored even faster than before. Thats why, although Waugh might rank behind Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara as batsmen pure and simple, when you add in the captaincy and character you come up with the most influential cricketer of the last decade”.
Of all the hundreds of thousands of words that were printed in Waugh valedictories though, it was Paul Keating’s former speech-writer Don Watson who perhaps got closest to defining the essence of the Steve Waugh attraction.
” He became immovable and indestructible. Fearless. That was the attraction. He was Steve Waugh and you could take it or leave it. So he was the sort of man who wouldn’t give you the skin from a grape; thats better than one who gives you the whole thing and thinks he’s bought you with it. It’s better than being a hypocrite, or a crawler, or a preacher, or a pimp, a chump or a politician etc.
“It was because he was Waugh that we forgave him things we didn’t forgive in other players; we justified them or we decided that with Waugh no justification was necessary. He claimed a catch that the cameras showed wasn’t clean. He was an inveterate, unapologetic sledger. Even his modest ardent fans suspected that once or twice he batted for his average.
“But he was Steve Waugh and we could take it or leave it, he didn’t care. Most people took it.”
And now, the end is near , and so he faced his final curtain …
And that would be Waugh, too. On the occasion of playing his last Test- with seemingly the entire world of Australian cricket awash in heavy emotion – Waugh realised one particular thing about the extraordinary outpouring of emotion across the nation. He could use it. The team could use it. There was enough force in it that it could effectively be harnessed.
No, he didn’t bang on about it at the team meeting, but he did tell them straight out.
“The crowd will be on our side,’ he said. ‘Lets just use it to our advantage”.