One cannot think of 'Cricket' without the mention of 'Steve Waugh'. No doubt, he has his place among cricket's all-time greats. Not only because he scored a mountain of runs in both form of the game, or for his astonishing stint as Australia's captain, but for the qualities with which he enriched the game. His eyes like flints, skin made of rawhide, cricketing heart of stone, will of conqueror...
The foremost among Steve Waugh's qualities was his commitment to the team's cause. He will forever be remembered as an unselfish player, who put his best foot forward when his side needed him the most. Numerous times he orchestrated a revival when Australia was on the brink. If the Aussies were 50 for five on the first day of a Test match, you could be sure that Steve Waugh would be out in the middle, rallying with the lower order. He loved the sniff of the battle, and crunch times only lit the combative spark in him. Waugh made 10,927 runs in 168 Tests, at a highly creditable 51.06, and a majority of these runs surfaced when his team required him to dig in deep.
Steve Waugh, whose twin brother Mark had the gift of timing, would have to be given his due for marking the most of his limitations as a batsman, and turning them into his strengths. And any lack of natural talent was compensated by overdose of courage and character. Not too many cricketers have lasted 19 years in international cricket, and still finished on a high note. Waugh's remarkable fitness levels, strength of mind, fierce focus, and the ability to adapt to different conditions enabled him graduate in to a dependable, resilient, match-winning batsman, from being a run of the mill player in the middle order, who was considered suspect against short-pitched deliveries in the early stages of his cricketing journey. When he took his final bow, Waugh was among the gutsiest of players of fast bowling.
Waugh's achievements as a captain are out of the ordinary. The Aussie's 41 wins in 57 Tests matches make him the most successful skipper ever, and he, along with coach John Buchnnan, need to be complimented for devising an aggressive strategy that aimed at rattling up more than 325 runs in a day, providing the Aussie bowlers enough time to bowl the opposition out twice. However, Waugh lacked the natural flair of a Richie Benaud, an Ian Chappell or a Mark Taylor, who were innovative, having the ability to create something from nothing. His limitations as a captain were visible in his last series at the helm, when, with a depleted injury hit attack, he was unable to stem the flurry of runs from the Indian batsman. The inspirational moves were clearly missing.
There is no denying that it was with his never-say-die approach as a batsman that he managed to turn things around as a captain. The blood and guts hundred in the Super Six clash at Leeds in the 1999 World Cup marked the turning point in his captaincy. Let's not forget for a moment Waugh's contribution with the ball―92 and 195 scalps in Tests and ODIs, respectively. Known as Ice Man at the Death in the limited over contest, Waugh's clever, nerveless seam bowling in the sub-continent was instrumental in Australia's win in the 1987 World Cup. And his integrity to the game shone like a beacon during those dark days', when the match-fixing scandal threatened to consume the cricketing world.
Waugh was easily one of the most influential cricketers of his time, for he could so easily cut across barriers and reach out to the masses. Among the most popular players to have visited the country, his spontaneous participation in charitable causes meant the people of India could relate to him for reasons other than cricket.
Not even Waugh was blemishless through. He was among the worst sledgers during the first phase of his career, and till the final legs of his captaincy, allowed his men to indulge in this menace. But then, no sportsman can lay claims to being perfect. Steve Waugh will have his seat in the pantheon of the all-time greats... and for plenty of right reason.