Steve Waugh interview

“I played my best when it was backs against the wall”

ESPNcricinfo staff
Steve Waugh has been out of Test cricket for two years but the questions keep coming

Green and mean: Steve Waugh made a career out of proving people wrong © Getty Images

Steve Waugh has been out of Test cricket for two years but the questions keep coming. Will he coach Australia? What's his relationship with his twin brother? Is Ricky Ponting a good captain? Where is his baggy green? He talks about his new book Out of My Comfort Zone with Inside Cricket's Danny Weidler

With this new book, a few things were obviously written through gritted teeth. You could feel it as you were reading.
I really enjoyed writing it. I enjoyed having an honest look at myself - the things I learnt, the mistakes I made. I didn't want it to be a nice fluffy book that was all about when I got a hundred or five wickets. It's the first time I've had to sit down and look through it and see what it was all about and why I did certain things.

It seems that what drove you throughout your career was proving people wrong and getting through the hard times so you could enjoy the good times?
That's my make up. When I wrote this I understood myself a bit better. I played my best cricket when it was backs against the wall, when someone said I couldn't do it. And that explains why I got into some altercations out on the field - because I needed to get myself up for the battle and I needed someone to be having a go at me.

You say that during your twin Mark's bookie affair, you supported him and there was maybe a time when you guys should have had a hug, but you just didn't do it. Can you explain that?
It's a line that's captured the imagination of a lot of people and it was something that when I wrote it, I just wrote it. I didn't think about it and it really summed up the time - Mark was struggling, the family was struggling and we had a deep and meaningful chat which as brothers we hadn't really had. At the end of it I thought: "Maybe we should hug right now." But we didn't, we did the normal Aussie thing and just said "I'm there for you, we'll support each other," but looking back it was one of those moments where we probably could have gone a step further.

He's my brother: Steve and Mark Waugh © Getty Images

Are you close to Mark? Do you talk on the phone once a day, twice a day, never...?
(Laughs) Not once or twice a day, no. It's sort of spasmodic but when we get on the phone there's a mutual respect there and we've been through a lot together - we've played 108 Test matches and over 200 games together. I think as we get older we'll get closer and we'll reminisce and say: "That was pretty special what we did." At the time we just got on with it and saw each other as separate players.

Clearly it annoyed you that Mark, through the bookie scandal, put himself in a situation where the Waugh name could be tarnished.
Not so much annoy, I just struggled to understand how Mark got in that situation. But you look back on it, he was giving information for pitches and weather which was relatively harmless. But you could see where it was going to lead, that was the danger. I felt disappointed for the family - how regularly they'd have to read stuff, dad being a newsagent it was pretty tormenting for him.

Do you maybe see yourself as a future coach of the Australian side?
I don't see myself as a coach but more as a mentor and a guy who can step in if someone's struggling. I had 18 years at the top - well, a lot of those weren't at the top, the first five were down at the bottom - and I've had a range of experiences. I think I can pass on that knowledge to young guys and hopefully give them that shortcut to success.

Where is that famous baggy green cap right now?
It's at home somewhere. My cricket stuff's a mess. As people who played with me would know, it wasn't one of my best traits, neatness. It's all over the place. But I do know where it is and it is special and it is something I want to pass on to the kids. I feel like it's a part of me and a part of what I was when I was playing for Australia.

Waugh launches his autobiography © Getty Images

There was some talk that Shane Warne would have been captain before you if not for his off-field issues. Was that something that made you think: "I would have liked to have been first-choice captain?"
I think it was. There were obviously some people who were pushing for Shane and he's got a great cricket brain - no doubt about that - but I think I paid my dues. I was vice-captain. I was ready for it. Shane would have done a good job but I think I won it fair-and-square on merit, not other issues off the field. But there is the complete package, it's not just about what you do on the field, it's about how you carry yourself off the field, the example you set - a whole range of things come into it. Shane would have made a great choice as well.

Should a person's private life come into the equation when choosing a Test captain?
You'd like to say no but you've got to be realistic about it. You're an example, you're a role model, people look up to you, and it is part of the game these days and whether you like it or not, it all comes into it. Look, my answer is I'd like to say "no it shouldn't", but it does and that's reality.

Do you have a motto?
"Stand for something otherwise you'll fall for everything." It's how you come back from adversity that really makes you what you are. The good times are great but I think you show your true colours in the tough times.

Is Ricky Ponting a good captain? Can he be a great captain?
Yeah he's doing well. It's a process, it evolves. You don't become a great captain straight away, you take your time, you learn your lessons, you make mistakes. Mine was I captained by consensus - I was trying to please everyone instead of following my gut instincts and as a captain that's why you're there - because you make decisions and people trust your instincts. That's something he'll learn and I think he's doing well. He has the respect of the players and that's certainly a big start.

Did you actually say to Herschelle Gibbs "You just dropped the World Cup" in 1999?
No, I wasn't quite that clever. I wish I could claim that and the myth is sort of perpetuated and I'm going to break it a bit but it wasn't quite that, I just said: "Look, do you realise you've just cost your team the game." We were having a battle at the time and Herschelle is a fantastic player. I gave him a bit of stick when he was batting and of course he got 120. When you've done that you've got to cop it when you get back in and he gave me a gob full all the way through and I got to 56 and he dropped the catch and he walked past me at the end of the over and . . . well we had to say something.

You didn't mind the press letting that one go for quite a while!
Well I did actually tell people but no one wanted to listen. It was a good line though - you've got to stick with that.

Inside Cricket's December issue © Cricinfo

Michael Clarke. Is he the future of Australian cricket?
He's learning in front of the world and it's not an easy place to make mistakes. He's got things he can work on. He's got a good temperament, he's a good listener which is really crucial, he's got his feet on the ground. But he's going to go through some tough times. At some stage, like most players, he'll probably get dropped. I mean it's almost impossible to think that you're not going to get dropped at some stage and I think in some ways it's good because you reassess, you analyse, and you work out how you can improve. He's an excellent player, he probably needs to tighten up a bit on his technique, but you don't want to change him because he's a match-winner and that's the way he plays his game.

Have you had pulled him aside and had any private chats with him about his cricket?
Probably not as much as the other players because he came on the scene basically when I was finishing up. I think a guy like Simon Katich I like to talk to, and Brett Lee and Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer - really whoever wants a chat will have a chat. Gilly - we have a chat occasionally. If anyone wants hopefully a bit of advice, I'm there any time they want it.

This is an edited extract of an interview that first appeared in the December issue of Inside Cricket. For subscription details go to