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Declaration was a bit late: Waugh
January 06, 2004 16:56 IST
Steve Waugh's final day in office was more about emotions than the hard cricket he played in all his 168 Tests.
"The lap of honour around the stadium, on the shoulder of my mates, was as good as it gets. That is something I will never forget," said Waugh, as he faced a packed media hall with wife Lynette watching from the sidelines.
It is difficult to imagine any cricketer, past or present, being accorded a reception as overwhelming as the outgoing Australia captain received.
Over 27,000 spectators wildly cheered and left only after the great cricketer disappeared in the sanctity of the dressing room, a good hour later after the fourth and final match and the series had ended in a draw, at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Tuesday.
"At the moment it has not sunk in yet that it is over. Maybe, tomorrow morning I would realise it all. It has been an amazing support, a very special occasion for me. In a way I have been very lucky and the reaction today just confirms cricket remains the people's game," Waugh said.
"It is amazing the way it has panned out. I am proud of the support of my family and friends and those in the stands. Today was as good as it gets."
Waugh, who announced his retirement a couple of months ago, believed he made the right choice about his career.
"One has to leave at some stage. It does not get better than this. I am not sad, rather lucky to have received so much affection and people's warmth," said the captain, whose gritty 80-run knock today helped Australia salvage a draw.
Waugh was mildly critical of the Indians' declaration on the fourth evening and felt stretched their innings a little too far.
"I thought it was a bit late and 440 was too huge a target. I would say they gave us only two per cent chance of winning."
Waugh also looked back at the day's proceedings, including his innings, his side's aggression in the final hour and the message he sent out to the batsmen in the last overs to close the shop.
"I was extremely nervous, but, strangely, when I walked up to the crease, I felt tranquility. I was very relaxed and wanted to do my stuff.
"It was a dangerous situation and some special innings was needed and I was happy I could bat long. In some ways, I owed it to the crowd.
"It was a brave effort when we stepped up the scoring in the final hour since we were facing a massive score. It was a pretty brave effort.
"But when I fell and Adam too departed, I sent a word for Gilly [Jason Gillespie]. It would have been pretty damning to lose the Test from that position."
Waugh praised the Indians for their spirit and quality in the series, but did not think that they dominated the four-match series.
"The series was played in extremely good spirit. To be sure, when I walked in there was some bantering, but it was all friendly.
"I don't think it is right to say India dominated us in the series. I would say it was an even series.
"Indian batting was sensational and their line-up is the best I have ever seen in my career. The way they batted was a good lesson for us as well."
Waugh said recent India-Australia contests had the makings of a great rivalry between two great cricketing nations.
"The way the last six-seven Tests have been played between the two teams it is fair to say there have been some amazing contests.
"It is certainly a very prestigious series now. The Ashes is important and the Frank Worrell trophy too, but there is no reason why the Border-Gavaskar trophy cannot be put alongside it."
Waugh dismissed suggestions that Australian cricket is on the decline and reaffirmed faith in the system to produce quality cricketers.
"It is difficult to maintain top standards. But there is depth in Australian cricket. Other teams are coming up and our job will only get harder but there are quality young players emerging and they would do well."