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Waugh prepares for the end
Julian Linden |
January 01, 2004 16:42 IST
Timing is everything for cricketers and Australia's retiring captain Steve Waugh believes he has chosen his moment perfectly.
More than 18 years after making his international debut and despite being agonisingly close to passing Allan Border's world record for the most Test runs, he wants to move on, satisfied that he has already achieved everything he wanted.
His farewell Test, against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground, promises to be an emotional send-off but the 38-year-old says he has no regrets.
"There's no real sadness about it. I don't feel it's a sad occasion," he said. "I've been lucky to have played a lot of matches. I've had great experiences around the world, played against great players, met a lot of fantastic people, seen a lot of different cultures.
"There's nothing to be sad about, I've definitely been fortunate."
Waugh spurned the chance to make a fairytale ending to his career when he scored a breathtaking century against England in Sydney last year.
He went into the match needing a miracle to save his career. He had already been dropped from the one-day team and the selectors had made it clear his Test job was on the line by dumping his twin brother Mark before the Ashes.
Waugh responded with a flawless performance that reached a climax on the final ball of the second day when he struck a boundary to reach his hundred.
After silencing his critics, he was tempted to quit but continued, scoring another four centuries in the ensuing 12 months.
With his destiny back in his own hands, Waugh announced he would retire after the final Test with India, ensuring he finished in his home town of Sydney.
"It's definitely the right place to finish up. It's not always possible and once again I've been pretty lucky it's happened this way," Waugh said.
"It's a great place to play cricket. There's something special about playing at the SCG. I think it is the best atmosphere of any ground in the world when it's filled to capacity.
"Personally I couldn't think of a better place to play my last match."
Raised in Sydney's western suburbs, Waugh made his Test debut against India as a 20-year-old but didn't score his first century until his 27th Test.
He was dropped from the side in 1990-91 to allow Mark to make his Test debut and the experience made him a more determined and ultimately better player.
He remodelled his game, learning to cope with express pace, rejecting the hook shot and adopting a more controlled approach to become one of the more prized wickets of world cricket.
In a career of many highs, some of Waugh's greatest moments were his 200 against West Indies in 1995, his twin centuries against England in 1997 and his 120 against South Africa at the 1999 World Cup.
He led Australia to victory in that World Cup and steered the Test Team to a record sequence of 16 consecutive wins.
Now the most capped player in Test history with 167 appearances and with just one more to come, Waugh said he can finally look back on his accomplishments with pride.
"Time goes really quickly. It's almost incomprehensible to imagine that it was 18 years ago I started, it doesn't feel that long ago," he said.
"I don't think it's hit me yet. I don't think it'll hit me until after the Test match when I walk away and realise that's the last time I'll play for Australia.
"Right now I still feel as though I'm still very much part of the side and it's still business as usual."