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'Steve Waugh inspired the team through his own feats'

1999, part two: Fleming on Australia's progression into the Super Six stage of the World Cup, and the role their captain played in motivating the team (00:00)

March 7, 2011

Transcript

'Steve Waugh inspired the team through his own feats'

March 7, 2011

We got into the Super Six stage and we didn't have any points. But I think we actually felt that all of a sudden the momentum was going our way, and we were getting good players in good form. So really there was a lot more belief around the squad. Our training lifted our intensity, and I think your trainings can indicate where you are going as a team, how you are executing when you are in the nets, when batting and bowling, but also your fielding, and how much fun you were having.

Also we committed to make sure we spend more time with our team-mates, and obviously we had the nerds and the Julios, we wanted to make sure that we had more fun in those scenarios, whether we were playing footie, or soccer or ten-pin bowling. We wanted to make sure that the social times that we had together were a lot of fun as well. So all of that meant that all of a sudden we were back on, we were confident and really we just felt like the destiny was in our hands.

We got over Zimbabwe pretty quickly, and then we had India. We obviously respected India, they had an outstanding batting line-up. We batted quite well, Mark Waugh got runs, and I think Ricky Pointing started off with a six. But with Azharuddin, Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, with all these types, we knew that they would be dangerous. But that's when Glenn McGrath stood up again, I think he got three early wickets, and I might have got Ganguly out. So all of a sudden they were four for nothing, and we were all over them there, So once again a really good win against a strong opponent suggested us that things are going our way.

We respected South Africa big time, and they were probably the No. 1 rated team in the world, from the win-loss ratio then. And I think deep in our minds we thought, for us to win the World Cup we have to knock out South Africa.

In the first Super Six game they batted very well. Herschelle Gibbs got a brilliant hundred, and we lost some early wickets and we were under the pump a bit. You talk about leadership, Steve Waugh, a leader by actions and the way he walked out to bat that day - he used to have the red rag, it was in his back pocket there. I can still vividly remember him walking out of the Headinley dressing room, and thinking that there was no way he was physically coming back unless we won that game.

Him and Ricky Pointing built a bit of partnership, he batted well with Michael Bevan, but it was really on an edge against a top-line South Africa attack. Just going back a little bit, Steve Waugh was probably questioned, not only whether he is going to captain the one-day team but also his place in the one-day team, and he really needed to increase his strike-rate. About a year out, he started to bring out the slog sweep, particular against the spinners. He helped win us a final against India in Delhi in 1998, slog sweeping a spinner in one of the last overs.

In this game, the the most telling shot for me the slog swept off Steven Elworthy, a pretty fast bowler from South Africa. Waugh slog-swept him over midwicket. So all of a sudden we thought we might win the game, and then Tom Moody, his mate from the 1987 World Cup, went out to join him and it was still hearts-in-the-mouth stuff. The boys got us home in the last over, Shaun Pollock was bowling. And I remember Steve Waugh came back and he was little bit like Clint Eastwood really, not a lot of emotion. He got in, we were all pumped. I just felt that I couldn't go straight to him, I would have broken down. It was probably the most inspiring innings I had ever seen. It might have been his first or second hundred too. It took him to a level that he probably hadn't been to before. And that's what captains do, that's what leaders do, and fortunately for us our captain got us home.

We had had a team meeting the night before that and we are going through the players like we always do. We got to Herschelle Gibbs when the great Shane Warne, who obviously can think left of centre, a very creative person, suggested that Gibbs and Jonty Rhodes caught the ball and threw it before they actually controlled the ball, and so it wasn't a catch. He felt that it should be a team rule that we should actually stand our ground and question the umpire on whether they had actually held on to the catch long enough.

For me, it was right out of left field. I wouldn't have thought of something like that. But it showed how much Shane Warne thinks about the game. Steve Waugh said that it wasn't a team rule but if an individual batsman felt that it happened then they had the right to stand their ground. Now fast-forward to the game and Waugh is in the middle of his innings, and he flicks the ball, off to Gibbs, who proceeds to take the ball, but in the case to try and throw it up, he drops the ball and doesn't control it at all. And there was no doubt that it wasn't a catch. It wasn't that he dropped the catch, it wasn't quite what Warnie was saying, but amazing from that man to be able to pick up that a couple of them didn't hold the catch in the right spirit of the game. It was amazing how something as simple as that was enough to get us through, Steve Waugh went on to get a 120, and we were in the semi-finals.

There is no doubt that if Steve wouldn't have got a hundred in that game then we wouldn't have gone any further in the tournament. There was no one in that lower-middle order, the tail, that could have taken up against the attack - Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Steven Elworthy, Lance Klusener, Hansie Cronje - that was a class one-day attack. So that put it just into what it was, that it was a match-defining innings, but also a tournament-defining innings for us.


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