Waugh's hard-nosed image of World Cup success (21 June 1999)

21 June 1999

Waugh's hard-nosed image of World Cup success

Trevor Chesterfield

LONDON (England) - There is no euphemism to describe such a comprehensive victory as Australia achieved at Lord's on Sunday when their utter professionalism annihilated Pakistan: hard, tough and uncompromising.

To some they are the unsmiling giants, the true World Cup champions, making up for what they failed to accomplish in Lahore three years and four months ago; a time of torment turned around after their humiliation by Sri Lanka, the smiling, happy-go-lucky pygmies of the Test arena who rode their luck and good fortune.

It was a lesson from which Steve Waugh learnt much; the Australian psyche, noted for a mental toughness and outward exterior which was not prepared to yield a fraction of a centimetre. Not on the field in a World Cup final.

Waugh's policy of 'take no prisoners' may be a cliche to some yet it is as older than the tape on a W G Grace bat in the Memorial Museum.

In the Don Bradman era after World War 2 England long felt retribution for The Oval Test of 1938; ray Lindawall and Keith Miller were the agents of destruction while The Don and other members of the 1946/47 and 1948 teams demolished whatever bowling attack England could.

On Sunday, Waugh went for what is commonly known as 'the jugular' and Pakistan's hopes haemorrhaged so badly the body was not in a fit state to be revived. Had Hansie Cronje, the South African captain, applied similar tactics at Edgbaston on Thursday he might now be hailed as the leader of the new World Cup champions.

At Edgbaston, if you recall, Australia were a little shaky at the knees in their semi-final against South Africa. At 68 for four Australia were feeling the prickly pinch of apprehension when Waugh joined by Michael Bevan: another wicket at that stage would have just about buried a second World Cup final appearance at Lord's.

Instead of deviating from the script and bringing back Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock for a couple of overs apiece Cronje declined to read between the lines. He continued with the game plan instead of dealing in an exercise of innovation.

In Waugh's eyes there is no room for compromise on the field. He expressed this more than once during the five weeks.

'We're not here to win friends mate,' he growled at the press conference after beating the West Indies in that controversial match at Old Trafford at the end of May.

'Out job is, if we can, to win the World Cup. I am not bothered by anything else at this moment. If this tactic helps us do that (win the Worlds Cup), I am satisfied we have done the right thing..'

Waugh also had a cryptic answer ready for any question asked at the media conference. At Lord's on Sunday we had some interesting inquiries.

One came from a West Indian journalist who tried to probe beneath the hard-nosed Waugh exterior in a bid to get a view of the rugged consciousness with a polite question, the expurgated version of which is related here. Could Mr Waugh (if you please) assure the rest of the world there would now be a moratorium on such matters as sledging, bullying of opponents and general ruthlessness for which they were so well-known.

'No,' said the Australian captain in a typical unbending manner. If you think that successfully disposed of the questioner, smile a while. Would then Mr Waugh ask his players to tone down their attitude if not behaviour?

There was a shake of the head. He had already replied to the question: it was time to move on.

Why bother to answer when Australia had been as ruthless as they were going to be; tough playing field bullies who had mentally sledged Pakistan into submission. Perhaps man of the final, Shane Warne, should have answered for his captain. But 'Hollywood' preferred his skipper to turn the torture wheel a few more times to make sure words such as 'strangled the opposition' gained extra emphasis.

It was indeed the occasion for the tough Australian to stand up: the miracle workers of Edgbaston, where scraping through to the final required a Houdini survival kit which needed careful reading of the instructions. Such is the precarious lottery of the one-day game.

They had barely survived the first round and when they were finding their form in the Super Sixes there was always the impression they would fall, as had England, the West Indies, Sri Lanka , India and more cruelly South Africa.

At Lord's on Sunday it was the sharp fielding and the remarkable catching which opened old wounds in the Pakistan side and produced one of the more remarkable sights in a final: Inzamam-ul-Huq's forlorn figure slowly trudging off to the pavilion. His cherubic features creased with disbelief and agony, the batsman felt he had been betrayed.

So had the supporters inside and outside the ground as well as Pakistan and other far flung pavilions across the face of the map.

Yet the Pakistan supporter, as with any from the Asian sub-continent, carries the passion others do not normally display. Collectively they provided many of the more satisfying sights and sounds of the tournament. They celebrated success and cheered their heroes through their tears when they lost. They were brave if exuberant; they were optimistic and paraded their enthusiasm with an openness which, if at times was too much for officialdom to handle, brought a new dimension to the game.

Sri Lankans, as is largely their gentle nature, may be more conservative than the Indians, but you know both are there; Pakistan and Bangladesh supporters are perhaps more assertive when expressing their feelings, aggressive too as can be their culture.

It is what turned World Cup '99 into the tournament it became and with it gave the game a new identity. It is no longer the game exported 200 or more years ago to the former nations of the British empire or Raj. It has become the sport binding millions: whether across Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, the West Indies or new territories. Hopefully the cultural forces felt in England will be further developed in 2003 when, barely into the new millennium, the next event is held in South Africa.

One of the more disappointing facets mirroring human nature could be found in the variety of messages contained in a number of emails which surfaced after Sunday's World Cup final result.

Many views, including those trumpeting Australia's success form Down Under, and others from parts of the Asian sub-continent aimed at the demise of Pakistan or Hansie Cronje and the South Africa team, were quite frankly of an unpleasant, disgraceful nature and had nothing at all to do with sport.

Some emails which turned up in one of my email boxes were not at all appreciated and swiftly dispatched to the 'trash' bin where they and their authors belong.

There were any number of scenes during this great carnival, which only became a carnival through the carefree spirit of the Asian spectators and players, which linger longer than most if only because of the sense of humour which could be seen from the actions on the players.

The first was at Headingley in Leeds where we were faced with the incongruous sight of Inzamam-ul-Haq, when in going for a run in the match against Australia, lay sprawled in an undignified heap on the turf next to his captain Wasim Akram who had declined to run.

Akram did not let on at all what his comments were to the portly Inzamam. Then we had, at The Grange, in Edinburgh, Craig McMillan crash-tackling the stumps, bat in hand and all as he beat a return while batting for New Zealand against Scotland in the game which helped the Kiwis reach the Super Sixes.

Jonty Rhodes did something similar when beating a return at Trent Bridge against Pakistan, taking out the camera video stump as well as causing much mirth in the South African dressing room.

Finally, the sight of a water pistol fending off a cavalry charge: New Zealand's Roger Twose rushing toward the boundary trying to take a catch offered by Saeed Anwar as the hordes of Pakistan supporters charged on, one of them plucking the ball out of the air as Twose, watching the mad dash for the middle and 'their spoils of victory' stopped just as he was engulfed.

Source :: Trevor Chesterfield, Pretoria News