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Javagal Srinath

Steve will be the real winner

January 01, 2004

Absolute and unyielding consistency, enduring efforts and above all, great leadership are some of the salient features of Steve Waugh -- arguably the best captain Australia ever had.

Taking over the reigns from Mark Taylor a little late in his career, 'Tugga' as Steve is fondly called, did not have much to do in terms of building the team, as he always had the advantage of having highly talented match-winners like of Shane Warne, Ricky Pointing, Glenn McGrath and Mark Waugh in the squad.

To those who are aware of Steve's passions for playing and enjoying the game, it is still a mystery whether his exit was announced on his own terms or was simply forced on him. The world will miss Steve Waugh, but its much more the other way round.

Steve, as I know him, is really going to miss the great game of cricket. A good 18 years of cricket with five years as the invincible leader is too much for any player to stay away from the game. But then, all good things must come to an end. Steve has accomplished a lot as a player and as captain of the Australian team, but there is one unfinished task that will bother him for the rest of his life: beating the Indians in India.

Steve came into international cricket as a mediocre cricketer and was even ignored on a few occasions from the Test and one-day sides because of his ordinary averages. Resilience personified, Steve came back strongly not only to become the world's most capped Test player, but also the second highest scorer in the history of world cricket.

The high point of his career may be winning the 1999 World Cup, but his contribution as a player is more evident in Test cricket where his average is an impressive 51.25. Though overshadowed by the grace and elegance of his twin bother Mark Waugh, he was the epitome of commitment and determination. The world has hardly witnessed the Waugh twins communicating on and off the field but the adage "blood is thicker than water" proved true when Steve stood firmly by his brother, Mark Waugh, during controversies.

During the Calcutta Test in the 1998 series, the Australians were reeling at 5 for 3 when Steve walked in. Since I was the wrecker-in-chief, he came straight up to me and gave a mouthful after facing a series of short pitch deliveries.

By the end of the day, Steve told the media that taking on the fast bowlers brings the best out of him. Not many batsmen would dare to endorse his way of tackling fast bowlers. The now famous tug of war with Curtly Ambrose in 1998 is ample evidence of his guts in handling fast bowlers. Indian batting icon Rahul Dravid has emulated Steve Waugh and is an ardent admirer of his qualities.

The final Test versus India in front of his home crowd at Sydney will be the swan song for this great cricketer. SCG is the perfect venue to bid adieu irrespective of the result of the match. However, the team would not only be ready for an emotional farewell but would want to gift the departing captain a series win.

By winning the Adelaide match, Indians have the opportunity to win the series, which, if accomplished, will be a historic one. Even levelling the series by drawing the final Test will portray the Indian team in a different light altogether. Only surrendering the series to the hosts will be disastrous for the tourists.

The SCG is known to be a spinners paradise and the contradicting reports of things not being the same anymore there leaves the team to think hard whether to go with three seamers or two spinners. I firmly believe that on a wicket, which is known to keep low as the match progresses, a third seamer can be more effective than a spinner. The head of the department of the Indian spin attack, Anil Kumble, can be very well supplemented by the likes of Sehwag and Sachin. A three pronged pace attack will be the right combination for India's quest to script history.

In the end, it is the brutally honest Australian cricketing culture that would see the exit of Steve Waugh. It has happened to many cricketers in Australia before and people can still say Steve Waugh had the longest run.

This Sydney Test has all the ingredients to become the most interesting one. But, be it a win or defeat for Australia, it is obvious that STEVE WAUGH WILL BE THE REAL WINNER.

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