He came into the Australian squad as an all-rounder during the test series down-under versus India. He was a member of the team that won the World Cup in 1987. Within a few years, he lost his place in the test team to his twin brother who scored a century on debut in the Ashes of 1991. The player is Stephen Rodger Waugh who went to become one of the best batsmen of his generation and also one of the best captains in the game.
Following his exit from the team, Steve had a change in his approach to batting. The comeback into the team witnessed a different batsman who started to score runs in torrents. The opponents seemed to bring the best out of him and no one can forget the double hundred in the West Indies in 1995 that gave Australia the Frank Worrell trophy after a long interval.
Some of the most famous innings of Steve Waugh have come in the longer version of the game.For someone who batted down the order, big scores in the one-dayers were not always possible.
In the Reliance World Cup of 1987, Steve Waugh could not make a big contribution with his bat but on more than one occasion, took crucial wickets. Waugh was a very clever bowler who varied the pace much to the surprise of the batsmen. In the semi-finals versus Pakistan at Lahore, Waugh scored 18 runs off Salim Jaffer in the 50th over of the Australian innings.Those runs proved to be the winning margin for the Aussies. Later when Pakistan batted, he took a couple of wickets.
In the Wills World Cup of 1996, Steve Waugh had a few memorable outings like the half-century versus New Zealand at Chennai. In the semi-finals at Mohali, he produced a great delivery to stop Brian Lara who was well set to take the Windies to the finals.
But it was the ICC World Cup of 1999 that saw Steve Waugh’s emergence as a great captain.The Aussies had to really sweat it out after the initial stages.It was in the super-six match versus South Africa at Leeds that the famous Waugh magic came to the fore.It was a now-or-never match with Australia needing to win in order to have any further say in the tournament.
South Africa made 271 with Gibbs making a century. In reply, the Aussies had a poor start but Waugh went for the shots making a 50 off only 47 balls.When on 56, Waugh had a reprieve, thanks to Herschelle Gibbs.Legend has it that Waugh made a comment to Gibbs about the drop. Waugh went on to make 120 and took his team to the semi-finals. After a couple of days, the same two teams contested the semi-finals which ended in a tie and the Aussies went to the final on a better run-rate.
Waugh was not picked for the World Cup of 2003.He had to make way for new and younger players.But no one can question the part played by Waugh in the making of a strong Australian team.
I was fascinated once to learn that Steve Waugh played with a bat that was shorter in length in relation to the bats used by other players.The famous red hankie in the trouser pocket and the worn out baggy green are still fresh in my memory.
More than the style it was substance that was more important.