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Waugh goes to the heart of the matter

June 13, 2006 01:15 IST

`So how old are you today?'

"Mate, I'll never catch you, no worries."

`Oh yes you will -- I am just seven years ahead and they say only the good die young -- so you'll likely be around for ever.'

Steve Waugh, who turned 41 on Friday June 2, laughed.

For a man who retired from cricket because he felt it was time for him to stop burning his candle both ends against the middle, Waugh has only gotten busier.

He had just returned after five days in Barcelona -- where, as member of the prestigious Laureus Sports Academy, he attended the annual awards bash.

The trip, he said, was invigorating -- charity functions everywhere, every day.

For a player who, throughout his career, has gone out of his way to make opportunities to meet top performers from other disciplines and learn from them, the trip's standout feature was the opportunity to renew acquaintances with legends from the sporting world.

He mentions catching up again with Michael Johnson, the great American runner -- ' a terrific chap,' is Waugh's verdict.

He also raved about legendary hurdler Edwin Moses and said he enjoyed spending time with the likes of skiing legend Franz Klammer (the Austrian astronaut who won 25 World Cup events in downhill skiing) and Daley Thompson, the greatest decathlete of all time.

Earlier, he had been in the UK for a week, to launch and promote his autobiography 'which is doing great, mate'.

The leitmotif of his life, though, is his charities -- he has been busy right through, raising money for the Steve Waugh Foundation; the tally stands at $1.8 million over the past nine months, he says with some pride.

Waugh, who visits India three-four times each year in his capacity as Macquarie Bank's public face in India, says plans are at an advanced stage for the launch of the Steve Waugh Charitable Trust International, to be headquartered in Mumbai and to serve as his vehicle for charitable works in India.

Simultaneously, he is working to register another Charity Foundation in Australia, to enable him to raise money for India in Australia and provide Australian donors with tax deductible receipts.

India, in fact, is a recurring theme in his plans. He will soon launch an innovative television program with his great mate and fellow-Australian cricketer Gavin Robertson.

Active sport is limited to soccer, in which he turns out for an Over 35 team in Sydney. Soccer has been a lifelong passion -- one that would have turned him into a couch potato with the World Cup having begun in Germany next week.

Birthday 'celebrations', he says, are limited to 'ten pin bowling with the kids, mate -- and then a pizza'.

No cakes, apparently -- but he will likely get some icing: the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) is considering naming one of its stands in his honor.

Which are the teams he would be watching out for, apart from Australia, in the World Cup?

"West Indies, mate. They are fast improving. Their confidence is up after beating India 4-1 and when Lara is fully focused on the World Cup... . "

I ask for brother Mark's new cell phone number -- and Steve, known to be very close to his twin, goes "Gee, must ring him, shouldn't I?"

Darshak Mehta lives in Sydney and is a friend of Steve Waugh. He will serve as Trustee on a couple of Waugh's charities.

Darshak Mehta