Allan Donald went over and around the wicket in Johannesburg, 1997, and battered Steve Waugh’s body in a manner befitting of great fast bowlers. Steve Waugh did not flinch a bit, eschewed the hook shot, and kept taking them on the body, intent more on survival than giving up his wicket. He scored 160 in an Australian win. Two years before, in a series that kick-started Australia’s dominance in test cricket, Waugh had managed to get into the nerves of the great Curtly Ambrose – the two almost came to blows – on a way to a match winning double century.
He is often overlooked when people list the great batsmen of the 90s. He was not born with the refulgent talents of Lara and Tendulkar. He never could manufacture shots like the great Trinidadian or bring wholesomeness to batting like the little maestro from Mumbai. In fact, his twin brother Mark was innately of greater gifts than him. But, if you have to choose one name who defined Australia’s cricket in the last decade of the 20th century, a period marked with the coming of a certain larrikin called Warne and others like Mcgrath and Ponting, look no further than Stephen Rodger Waugh. His success was founded on courage.
Waugh’s vulnerability against short pitched bowling was perhaps among the overstatements in cricket, in the 90s. In fact, he rarely got out to the short ball. His way of playing was doubtless ungainly and an eyesore for the purists but he generally was dismissed by the ball further up.
Tendulkar and Lara, in their respective primes, never had that flaw. Their speed of hand and eye were enough to evade and, at times, score prolifically of short deliveries. However, their armours show more chinks as time creeps up on them. Lara, for all his recent runs, has never looked comfortable with the short stuff. He is more Waugh-like now in that regard. Tendulkar is suffering from the same failing, a weakness born out of seventeen years of shouldering the burden of billion overbearing fans. However, in his case, the runs have dried up. The great man is no longer mentioned in the same breath as Lara, four years his senior. He has to act; and act now he must. The South African series may well be a make or break one for him. Fail, and he’ll slowly fade into oblivion. Succeed, and the second coming may well be more breathlessly good than the first. We, his fans, just can’t wait.
Via: The Hindu, expressindia