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The Baggy Green Crown - Farewell Steve Waugh

News by Venkatesh Govindarajan 07/01/04

“After scoring 18 runs in my first Test Match, I never thought I would play another one.” Thus spoke Steve Waugh on the 6th of January 2004, at the Sydney Cricket Ground, after hanging up his boots and retiring from International cricket. A most seasoned warhorse, whose nearly two-decade-long career ended on this day.

Statistics often serve to undermine the real worth of a person, for a cricketer is much more than the runs, wickets, matches and catches that are indicated against his name. Steve Waugh transcended the limits set by records, which after all, are mere numbers. What stood out was his leadership, which made numerous careers and inspired several young Aussies to pursue the game, with the inimitable Australian pride. He picked up the thread from where Mark Taylor left off and conferred upon the Australian team, an invincibility which was challenged by the touring Indians in the two weeks preceding Waugh’s ‘last day at office’.

Steve will possibly be devoting more time to Udayan, a charity he is dedicated to in Kolkata India and similar social service organisations, and also to his wife and three young children, who have seen very little of their husband and father in the preceding 18 years. Son Austin, although still a toddler, will now have a full-time coach at home, who will train him in the backyard, just as his father was trained by his! After 18 years of playing cricket in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the West Indies, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, England, New Zealand and the Middle East, it is very much a homecoming for Waugh.

Steve has handed down a legacy of ‘fight-till-the-last’ to newly appointed Aussie skipper Ricky ‘Punter’ Ponting, The 2003 World Cup victory may well bring down the awe associated with stepping into the big shoes of Steve Waugh, for Ricky.

Less elegant in his batting than twin brother Mark, Steve’s stints at the crease were characterised more by dourness and grit, resilience and street-smartness. From being Border’s ‘man with the golden arm’ in the late 1980s, Steve graduated to a ‘barrier between the opposition and victory’ in the 1990s and thereafter, to a ‘father figure’ at the beginning of the 3rd Millennium. His career has literally been a case of ‘rising through the ranks’.

Stephen in Greek means ‘crown’. How appropriate! The Waugh who wore the same Baggy Green cap for 18 long years – the Baggy Green crown rather! An era comes to a close and Steve, in his mind’s eye, may perhaps be looking at Austin Stephen Waugh donning a new Baggy Green cap, sometime towards the end of the next decade. Brother Mark, let the cat out of the bag in the commentary box at the SCG on the 6th of January. Well, Austin is at an advantage – two teachers, who between them have played close to 300 Test Matches. Hope to see this pair adding to the Manjrekars, Amarnaths, Cowdreys, Cairnses, Huttons, Hadlees, Pollocks, Mankads, Chappells and Stewarts.

As an aside, January 6th is also a memorable day to yet another great all-rounder, former Indian Test great Kapil Dev…he was born on this day, over four decades ago.

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