Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Cricket World Cup - Dream Team…..5. Steve Waugh : Excerpt from ‘The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011’ by Indra Vikram Singh

Steve Waugh


Born 02.06.1965

BATTING (World Cups 1987-1999)
Not Out.....10   
Highest Score.....120*      

BOWLING (World Cups 1987-1999)
Runs Per Over.....4.70   

You would find few cricketers as unassuming and unattractive to watch as Steve Waugh. That for an Australian is unusual. But when it came to grit, and valiant battles against heavy odds, Steve ranked alongside the legends. Unemotional, deadpan, he has become a cult figure for his unyielding attitude that often turned the tide when all seemed lost. Time after time, when his team needed it badly, Steve Waugh came up with stellar performances that earned the respect of teammates and adversaries alike. He has been the silent warrior who played the single-most important part in carrying Australia to the top in both versions of the game, first as a batting allrounder and later as leading batsman and skipper. Without doubt, Steve Waugh’s contribution has been unmatched.

It was in his very first match in the World Cup, the nail-biting opening encounter against reigning champions India in 1987, that Steve Waugh’s reputation as ‘Ice-man’ gained further credence. Skipper Allan Border bestowed on him the onerous responsibility of bowling the heart-stopping last over, with India requiring just six runs to win and the last pair at the crease. He bowled his accurate slow-medium stuff to no.11 Maninder Singh, who scored four runs off the first four deliveries. As Waugh ran in to deliver his fifth ball, India needed one to equal, and two to win. The atmosphere was electric, and either the bowler or the batsman would crack. The batsman did. Maninder tried to swipe the straight ball to mid-wicket, missed and Waugh knocked out the off-stump. Waugh had snatched a sensational victory for Australia. His final figures were two for 52 off 9.5 overs. Earlier he scored an unbeaten 19 off 17 balls as Australia finished strongly at 270 for six in their 50 overs.

Steve Waugh completed a fine allround performance against Zimbabwe, hitting 45 off 41 balls with 2 sixes and 3 fours, and conceding just 7 runs off six overs to take the man-of-the-match prize. In the rain-hit 30-overs-a-side encounter with New Zealand he was unbeaten with 13 off 8 balls with a six and a four, and then revelled once more when it came to a crunch. Not surprisingly, he was again entrusted with the ball in the last over, with the Kiwis requiring 7 runs to win with four wickets in hand, and the brilliant Martin Crowe in command. Immediately, Waugh had Crowe caught by Geoff Marsh, and off the next ball castled Ian Smith. A run later he ran out Martin Snedden. Waugh conceded just two more runs and clinched another thrilling victory for his team. Indeed, Waugh displayed nerves of steel, marking him out as a man from whom great deeds could be expected.

As Australia faced India again, Waugh picked up his customary wicket and then battled hard to score 42, but his side faded in the run-chase. Next, he took two Kiwi wickets for 37 in 9.4 overs to bring up victory for his team. Australia stormed into the semi-finals with a comfortable win over Zimbabwe.

Pakistan were the favourites at Lahore. Steve Waugh, now batting at no.6, hit a hurricane unbeaten 32 off 28 balls with 4 fours and a six as wickets fell all around him. He also took the vital wicket of Salim Malik. Australia carved out a hard-earned win.

In the final, England were striving hard to overhaul the Australian score when Waugh struck. He bowled Allan Lamb for 45. Then as Philip DeFreitas cut loose, hitting Craig McDermott for a four and a six, Waugh had him caught by Bruce Reid in the 49th over. He finished with two for 37 off 9 overs. England were left with 17 runs to score off the last over, but the task was too difficult. The Iceman had frozen the opposition once again.

Steve Waugh played his role as utility player to perfection. It was a key element in Australia’s first World Cup triumph. He may not have been spectacular, but he was always at hand when there was something special required with the bat or ball. This is remarkable because his opportunities were limited as the first three batsmen - David Boon, Geoff Marsh and Dean Jones - were in brilliant form. With the ball Steve Waugh, with 11 victims, was second behind McDermott among Aussie wicket-takers. What more could be asked of him?

1992 was not Australia’s year, nor was Steve Waugh at his best. He scored 38 off 34 balls with 3 fours and a six, and put on 74 for the sixth wicket with David Boon as New Zealand beat them in the opening fixture, setting the pattern for the tournament. The next four matches did not bring him much glory but he took three Pakistani wickets, including those of Javed Miandad and Imran Khan, conceding 36 runs in his 10 overs.

It was time for Steve Waugh to make his presence felt with the bat, and he did that off the Zimbabwe bowling. He staged an exciting 113-run partnership in 69 balls for the fifth wicket with twin Mark. Steve Waugh hit 55 off 43 deliveries with 4 boundaries, as the siblings lifted Australia from 200 to 250 in a matter of 17 balls. That was not the end of the match for him. He snapped up two quick wickets to have Zimbabwe reeling, and bagged his second man-of-the-match award in the World Cup. Australia won the last match against the West Indies, but advanced no further. Steve Waugh had a modest tournament but still played as well as most in a team that had run out of steam.

In 1996 Australia were a rejuvenated lot under Mark Taylor. Steve Waugh was now bowling much less, but he batted with skill in his pivotal position at no.4. After the forfeited match in Colombo, the Waugh siblings made hay against lowly Kenya at Visakhapatnam. Coming together at 26 for two, they plundered the inexperienced attack at will. The century partnership came up in 18.1 overs. They went on to add 207 runs off 193 balls before being dismissed in successive overs. Steve Waugh scored 82 off 88 deliveries, hitting a six and 5 fours. This was,  at that time, the highest partnership for any wicket in the World Cup. It was the first double century stand in the premier event, discounting the fact that 221 runs were put on by three West Indies batsmen Desmond Haynes, Brian Lara (who retired hurt) and Richie Richardson before the first wicket fell against Pakistan in 1992. 

India provided the first big test. While Mark Waugh continued to blaze away with another century, Steve was run out for 7. But he performed his magic with the ball, taking two crucial wickets as the match got tense. Australia won by 16 runs with two overs left.  Steve Waugh picked up two more wickets as the Zimbabwe batting lurched.

Australia made a slow start in the face of some classical, accurate fast bowling by the great West Indies pair Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. It fell upon Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting to retrieve the situation. From 84 for two after 25.4 overs, they increased the tempo rapidly, putting on 110 runs in 111 balls. Waugh played splendidly, hitting 57 off 64 deliveries with 3 fours and a six. It was, however, Richie Richardson’s match, the Caribbean skipper pulling off a magnificent win off his own bat.

The Australians, nevertheless, moved into the quarter-finals, and their clash with Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in sweltering Madras was a thriller. The Kiwis put up a huge score of 286 for nine in their 50 overs. An upset seemed in the offing in the extremely hot, humid conditions under lights, though on a paradise of a wicket - for batsmen. The Aussies are nothing if not a resilient lot, and this is personified by nobody better than Steve Waugh. As Mark Waugh set the tone, and pinch-hitter Shane Warne clubbed 24 off 14 balls, Steve Waugh lent reassurance to the Australian fans. The twins added 86 in 18 overs before Mark left at 213 in the 39th over. The asking rate was 7 runs per over, and Steve carried on in the company of Stuart Law, the One-day specialist. Law swung his bat around in an unfinished stand of 76. Steve Waugh remained unbeaten with 59 off 68 balls with five boundaries, his second successive half-century in contrasting circumstances, as Australia won with 2.1 overs to spare.

The grassy wicket for the semi-final at the magnificent Mohali stadium offered movement to the bowlers, and Ambrose and Ian Bishop rocked Australia. They were in deep trouble at 15 for four wickets, including that of Steve Waugh. The later batsmen retrieved the situation somewhat to score 207, but the West Indies seemed to be coasting at 93 for one in the 23rd over. Just then Steve Waugh struck a stunning blow, knocking off Brian Lara’s bails with a beautiful delivery that moved away just enough. The magic arm had done the trick again. Later the Shane Warne wizardry came into play, and Australia squeaked through to their third World Cup final. They were outplayed by an inspired Sri Lankan side at Lahore with Steve Waugh not making much of an impact, but only until next time.

Steve Waugh was captain in 1999.  Rookies Scotland were never going to pose a challenge in the opening tie. Waugh took a wicket and scored an unbeaten 49 to bring up victory. Then the campaign started to come unstuck. Australia lost to New Zealand by five wickets. In the next match Pakistan put up an imposing 275 for eight in 50 overs. At 101 for four, Australia were in trouble. Waugh put up stubborn resistance in the company of Michael Bevan. They added 113 for the fifth wicket. Waugh missed his half-century once again by a run. His team fell short of the Pakistan total by 10 runs.

That spelt disaster, for Australia now needed to win virtually all their remaining seven matches if they were to wrest the title. The next outing, though, was against a minor team. Waugh did not have to extend himself as his side enjoyed an easy victory over first-timers Bangladesh. In the last round-robin match too his team delivered, beating the hapless West Indies without much effort.

In the first super-six match, Australia hit up 282 for six off the Indian attack. Waugh scored 36 off 40 balls, putting on 60 for the fourth wicket with Darren Lehmann. Then as his team closed in for the kill, Waugh snapped up two wickets for 8 runs.

Zimbabwe had been the surprise package of this tournament. But the determined Australians carted them around, hitting 303 for four. Steve Waugh, coming in at 97 for three after Darren Lehmann retired hurt, put on 129 for the fourth wicket with his twin. Steve Waugh hit up 62 off 61 balls with 2 sixes and 5 fours. Zimbabwe fell 44 short, and Australia had one last hurdle to cross before they could enter the semi-finals.

What a hurdle that was – South Africa, one of the favourites for the title. The Proteas rattled up 271 for seven. In the 12th over Australia were gasping for breath at 48 for three when Steve Waugh joined Ponting. They set about rebuilding the innings, hoisting a century partnership. Waugh raised his fifty off 47 deliveries. Soon after, there was a fortuitous reprieve. At 152 for three, with Waugh on 56, he flicked one straight to Herschelle Gibbs at square-leg. Gibbs, one of the finest fielders in the world, momentarily pouched the ball, then in a hurry to throw it up in the air in celebration, grassed it. That was just the stroke of luck that Waugh needed. His words – seemingly a figment of some creative mediaperson's imagination – to the hapless Gibbs, “Son, you just dropped the World Cup”, were to prove prophetic. Though he lost Ponting at 174, Waugh was unstoppable thereafter. He put on 73 for the fifth wicket with Michael Bevan, reaching his century in 91 balls, and brought up victory in the company of Tom Moody with just two balls to spare.

Waugh was unbeaten with 120, having faced 110 deliveries and hit 2 sixes and 10 fours. It was one of the greatest innings in One-day Internationals, played in a tense situation against an attack of class, and when the stakes were huge. The innings epitomised Steve Waugh, a man who never learnt to give up.

Then followed the heart-stopping tied semi-final. The opponents were the same, but this time Australia batted first. Waugh scored 56 off 76 balls with a six and 6 fours, putting on 90 for the fifth wicket with Bevan. South Africa were dismissed for 213, the same score that Australia had put up. But Australia advanced to the final, having beaten South Africa in the previous match. “Great escape”, was Waugh’s laconic comment.

The final was an anti-climax as Pakistan seemed to choke on the big day. Steve Waugh did not have much to do on this occasion except lift the new ICC Trophy. “There have been many highs in my life, like winning the Ashes here and beating the West Indies away in 1995, but this has to be the most amazing week of my life,” he said in his hour of triumph.

“Team with the most tenacity won”
Australia, Pakistan and South Africa were the best sides in the 1999 World Cup. Did the team with the most tenacity win the title?
Yes, the team with the most tenacity did win the title.

Your campaign faltered badly in the league stage. Why?
During the early stages of the World Cup, we focussed too much on the end result rather than the process required to get there.

Would you say that luck favoured the brave?
I don’t believe in luck. My belief is that the harder you work the more good fortune will come your way.

When Gibbs dropped you, did you really tell him that he had dropped the World Cup, or was this statement a media creation?
This is not exactly what I said, but it is close.

Did Pakistan choke in the final or was it simply a clinical performance by your team?
The final was a clinical performance by the Australian team.

Already, Steve Waugh is a titan in the premier tournament, one of its leading allrounders. He has performed stirring deeds with the bat and the ball, and as a leader. A batting strike-rate of 81.02 established that he scored his near-1000 runs at a fair clip, and his 27 wickets placed him fourth in the Australian list, alongside McDermott, and only behind McGrath, Brad Hogg and Warne. He had played 33 matches in the World Cup, the most alongside Javed Miandad until 1999. To complete the picture, he also had the highest number of catches in the premier event at that point.

Courageous against pace, skillful against spin, Steve Waugh tackled the bouncy tracks as well as the dusty turners. He may not have been one of the most elegant evaders of the bouncing delivery, but he coped well enough to look the most fearsome bowlers in the eye. He played a vital role when Australia won the Limited-overs World Cup in 1987. He also enacted perhaps the most significant part when, in 1995, Australia stopped the amazing decade-and-a-half long unbeaten run of the West Indies in Test cricket. He then inspired his team to their second World Cup title in 1999. Thereafter he led his team to a record sixteen successive Test match triumphs. Though dropped from the One-day side and written off in many quarters, he logged up 10,000 Test runs, and overtook the peerless Sir Donald Bradman’s Australian record of 29 Test hundreds in swashbuckling style. Through sheer determination Steve Waugh clawed up close to the summit in Test cricket's all-time lists of run-getters as well as century makers. As a fighter and a motivator he has been peerless. If one needed to pick somebody to bat for one's life, it would have to be Steve Waugh.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011

ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.

Available in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.

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