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Steve Waugh

MCG is one of cricket's great venues

December 26, 2003

This current Australian squad has always prided itself on rising to a challenge to produce its best cricket. During the last five years we have consistently done this to achieve our number one ranking, and invariably we have taken control of most of these series from the very first Test.

Being 1-0 down coming into the Boxing Day Test this time around is virtually unknown territory for us, and consequently one of the biggest hurdles we have encountered and a tough one to overcome.

I know the guys felt the loss deeply in Adelaide but I was very proud of our efforts on Day 5 minus our strike bowler on a 40║áday because we never gave in and as a consequence we were always in the game.

If there was one area in which we let ourselves down, it would have to be our shot selection and execution on Day 4. I'm certainly not reading too much into what happened because we were playing aggressively to enable us to push for a win on Day 5, which is exactly what we expect from each other.

It's only natural that this policy will occasionally backfire, but playing safe and stifling matches is not the type of cricket we want to play. Our aim for the remaining two matches is quite simple -- back ourselves, be positive in our intent and push for a victory even if in this quest we don't succeed. Many times in sport you must be prepared to lose if you want to win and this will be our mantra for the next two matches.

Personally I can't wait for the Boxing Day Test to start. It is always a highlight for anyone who has worn the Baggy Green to enter the colosseum in front of an 80,000 plus crowd and experience the instant adrenalin rush that surges through your body. I certainly had a cocktail of emotions running through my head as I entered the ground on the 26th of December 1985. Walking out to bat was almost a blur except for the thought that it seemed an eternity once I left the dressing room till I exchanged small talk with Geoff Marsh out in the middle. In truth I didn't know what to say since I only met Swampy at the team meeting the night before.

Back then we used to arrive in Melbourne after having Christmas lunch at home and not three days before as we do now. Seeing Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri, Vengsarkar and Syed Kirmani out in the middle was intimidating to say the least, and coupled with the fact that we had been sent in on a damp wicket wasn't exactly confidence building. I walked away after making a modest debut with the bat, scoring 13 and 5, but fared a little better with the ball, taking two wickets to feel somewhat satisfied but genuinely worried as to whether I could survive at this level.

Normally my fondest memories personally revolve around making runs, but I'm proud to say my name is on the honour board inside the MCG dressing rooms. The 1988 Test against the West Indies was going pear-shaped for me with figures of 0-72 before a minor miracle occurred and I finished with 5-90, including the great Vivian Richards whom I snared in both innings -- a statistic I'll always treasure.

On a not so positive note was the sight of Patrick Patterson storming into our rooms at the end of Day 4 to tell us that no one was going to be safe tomorrow and that he would kill us out in the middle. Suddenly the mood of our team changed from one of relaxed confidence to chilling fear. Maybe bowling him a few bumpers wasn't the smartest thing to do, looking back at the end result!

Every Australian batsman dreams of making a Boxing Day hundred, and for me it took a lot of years, falling in the nineties more than once before making it. The century I recall most vividly was the 100 against England, most of which was done with the tailenders and featured a rare hook shot to reach the milestone. Unfortunately, the resistance shown in the first innings didn't materialise in the second and in a marathon session that lasted over three hours England skittled our tail to win by 13 runs.

Looking back, if there was one moment I could change in my career, then not taking a single earlier in the over would be it -- but trust and having faith in the tail has generally worked well over the years.

The MCG is rated by all players as one of cricket's great venues and as such you will always see an exciting Test match because players lift when they are excited and inspired.

Since 1985 many things have changed, the dressing rooms have moved, the boundaries have been shortened, the pitches are now dropped in, grandstands have been replaced, the practice facilities have moved, but the one thing that is always a constant is the passionate, sports-loving crowd and the buzz that is unique to the MCG, moments before that first ball on Day 1.

(Gameplan)

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