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Farewell Friends - Steve Waugh

Farewell Friends - Steve Waugh

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Published by Aditya Avasare
The article written by Steve Waugh after announcing his retirement from international cricket
The article written by Steve Waugh after announcing his retirement from international cricket

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Published by: Aditya Avasare on May 26, 2009
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Decision evolved over a period of time
In a column exclusive to TOI, Aussie skipper Steve Waugh, 38, who has announced hisretirement from Test cricket, effective after India’s tour, looks back at his career.
 Steve Waugh
 Throughout my playing career, I’ve heard many times that you’ll know when it’stime to call it a day. They said: “One morning you will just wake up and knowinstantaneously that you want to retire or it’s time for a change of direction.’’Well I’m here to tell you that it has never been that black and white to me.Over the years there have been moments of self doubt that haven’t always had astraightforward answer, but whenever these challenging times have cropped up,they have always been extinguished quickly. The thought of being able to achievesomething new every day and to believe you can improve, have always drawn meto the challenges that lie ahead. Over the past 18 months the ‘R’ word has been aconstant, never more than a couple of questions away at any given pressconference, regularly written about in newspaper articles, and discussed by justabout everyone.It has been both bewildering and expected, from my perspective. The formerbecause I’ve always seen myself as just a cricketer from the western suburbs of Sydney who happened to be lucky enough to live out his dreams and play for, andcaptain, Australia. To have so much attention on my departure just feels strange, but I can alsounderstand that after having played for Australia since Boxing Day 1985 I havebeen a part of people’s lives for nearly 20 years. When you get to a certain age as aprofessional cricketer, you tend to be categorized. As a bowler, 33-35 is an agewhen the issues tend to focus on how much longer have you got. A batsman mayhave the luxury of a couple of extra years’ grace. But I will always argue that age isirrelevant unless you have two competing players of equal skill, desire, commitmentand fitness levels. This criterion equally applies to youth and if someone meetsthese requirements at 15 years of age, then their youth shouldn’t be used againstthem.My decision to retire was made in consultation with my family and my management.It’s been a decision that has evolved over a period of time and one I believe hasbeen made at the right time. I’m glad that I didn’t finish after last season’s Sydney Test, even though it would have been a fairytale finish. I knew I had something left
inside. Deep down I felt I could still improve and I didn’t want to finish while notplaying consistently well.Many will say, “But what about the last frontier — winning away in India?’’ In aperfect world it would have been nice to have a crack at it, but it will now be achallenge for Ricky Ponting and the boys to take on. If Australia do go on to win inIndia, I’ll feel comfortable in the knowledge that I have played a small part in thatprocess.Ricky has already shown he has the qualities to be successful and clearly has therespect of his peers, and crucially, seems to enjoy the added responsibility thatcaptaincy requires.Playing for Australia has always been a huge honor — knowing you are representing20 million people, and living out the dreams of many. It hasn’t always been smoothsailing; in fact Test cricket was a struggle for the first couple of years. My firstemotion upon hearing my selection was panic — Am I good enough? Will I be scaredand intimidated by the press and notoriety? Can I really be successful? I was alsoexcited and thrilled at the same time, but in reality I was hoping rather thanexpecting to do well.My big breakthrough came after 26 Tests when everything just came together atLeeds for my first Test century. For me the first thing I recall is how dry my mouthwas when I reached 99. I couldn’t summon enough saliva to chew my gum, myheart began to thump so hard I could feel it through my sweater and my palmssweated up so quickly that my grip on the bat was threatening to become unstable.When I pushed that single through the covers, it was just the greatest sensation, anoverwhelming surge of satisfaction, contentment, tranquility and excitement allrolled into one. It was also a massive relief because I’d always wanted to score ahundred and expected to do so, but until you actually do it, those doubts can lingerand eat away at your self confidence.Claiming the World Cup as rank outsiders in 1987 on the subcontinent was thecatalyst for the winning era we are accustomed to now. Defeating England 4-0 onthe ‘89 Ashes Tour was a coming of age for the likes of Taylor, Jones, Hughes, Healyand myself and remains my favorite tour in terms of enjoyment. Akin to climbingEverest was beating the Windies on their home turf — a feat we achieved in 1995.A double century and a huge partnership with twin brother Mark was my greatesttriumph in terms of batmanship, because it was against the best attack, in the mostcritical Test, under the most trying conditions.Coming from a seemingly impossible situation in the 1999 World Cup was also amemorable time and one to cherish because it was executed under intense scrutinyand pressure.Of course there have been many down times during the journey that haveinfluenced my character and help shape the values needed to survive and succeed.I can still recall sitting in the Eden Park change rooms as a 20-year-old, after scoring0 and 1, being verbally assaulted by John Bracewell during a match we lostcomprehensively. It was a series loss, topped off by being bowled out for 102 in the
second innings. The dressing room was like a morgue and the scent of a heavydefeat hung in the air.My thoughts drifted off to a place I didn’t want to visit. I wondered if I’d ever play ina winning Test team, was I good enough to make the grade and could this team turnthings around. It was a moment that has helped me stay grounded during thevictorious times, and one that I’m glad I experienced.My first tour of Pakistan was an examination of the toughest kind. A string of questionable decisions, poor form and a culture shock had me in a fragile state of mind, which culminated in a bizarre dismissal during the second Test. Just when Ithought I was making some headway with a determined 20, on what turned out tobe the final delivery of the match I busted back an innocuous ‘half tracker’ to thebowler. Looking back this was no doubt the lowest point in terms of self-belief duringmy career.Many of these lessons have been put to use over the past 12 months when the jurywas out on my form and position in the side. But I knew if I could trust myself, workhard and keep it simple, I could turn things around.I was amazed at the overwhelming support last year in Sydney, and from aroundthe world and without doubt it inspired me to perform on the day.Charity work has been a real life experience so far and I love the associations I havewith the kids in India and I look forward to continuing and expanding my role there.Sydney to me is the perfect place to retire for many reasons. It’s one of the bestvenues in the world; it’s been my home ground throughout my career; all my familyand friends will be there; I will be playing against India, a team and country forwhich I have great admiration; I am very fit and on top of my game. I’ve alwayswanted to finish on my own terms and right now I feel as if I’m in the best form of my career, and I can’t think of a better word for anyone to say about me when Ifinish other than: Why?
Thanks mate — you were simply superbSachin Tendulkar:
I think he set great examples in the way cricket should be played and in toughconditions he would produce some tremendous performance. Anyone would want toplay like him — he was completely at a different level as far as mental toughness isconcerned. He’s someone I’ve really admired, he’s shown over the years that he’svery gutsy and when the time demands it he who’s there to deliver.
Rahul Dravid:
It is sad in a way. He was one of my heroes and someone I looked up to ininternational cricket. I’ve played against Waugh, met him and chatted with himduring the course of my career and found him very helpful. He is right high upthere. He was a terrific professional and a great cricketer. The intensity andcommitment he brought to his batting was phenomenal and great to watch.

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