Australia v India, 1st Test, Brisbane, 2nd day

From hero to villain in 10 minutes

For nearly a week, Steve Waugh has obsessed sports-loving Australia

Sambit Bal in Brisbane

December 5, 2003

Text size: A | A

Steve Waugh: the last mile will be an uphill walk
© Getty Images

For nearly a week, Steve Waugh has obsessed sports-loving Australia. Every cricket ground has been making its preparation to send off the national hero in the manner he deserves. Understandably, local newspapers have taken time off from Ganguly-bashing for some serious Waugh-eulogising; a local company plans to distribute thousands of Waugh-like red rags to spectators to wave whenever he comes out to bat, and it's all leading to a spectacular farewell match at the SCG, Waugh's home ground.

Waugh might yet still make a feast of it in the second innings, but today at the Gabba it was not to be. Ten minutes is all it took for him to go from being the farewell hero to national villain of the day, and if he wasn't barracked, it was perhaps because the crowd was too stunned to react. The players came off for lunch the moment Waugh was given out, and for many in the stands, the tragedy was only brought to light by the giant television screen.

While Waugh walked out to a rousing reception, it wasn't lost on some keen observers that in his eagerness to get out to the middle - he virtually sprinted out at the fall of the first wicket this morning - he had denied the hero of the Australian first innings, Justin Langer, the opportunity for an ovation that he so deserved. Langer's had been the standout performance in the match so far. He had negotiated with grit and pluck conditions he later described as "scary" and made the most of a flagging Indian attack in the last hour. Gentle speculation had been rife after Michael Slater's good run of scores for New South Wales this season, and Langer's answer was a century that he termed as his best. Yet, with Waugh out in the middle in a flash, the crowd rose to salute him rather than Langer who had brought Australia to a position of dominance.

And then came the run-out. Damien Martyn is the kind of batsman who is incapable of looking out of touch. He either gets out or he flowers. On a difficult pitch here, he had been in supreme touch, caressing the ball with majestic ease. Admittedly the call was Waugh's - he was running to the danger end - but Martyn's `no' had been emphatic, and Waugh was guilty of disregarding it. Many former Australian players were horrified that Martyn chose to sacrifice his wicket for his captain, for sentimentality has no place in the Australian cricketing lexicon. The only way for Waugh to redeem himself was to bat his team out of a potentially difficult situation.

His dismissal brought an end to a near-surreal morning session. For years, his technique has been suspect against the short ball, but while he always looks awkward against it, he is rarely dismissed by it these days. He nearly got out with an unconvincing hook that took his gloves and sped away to the third-man fence eluding a despairing Parthiv Patel. But Waugh had been pushed back enough for his boot to hit the stumps and dislodge a bail.

It's far from over for Waugh yet. But as Greg Chappell said in a private conversation during the rainbreak, the last mile for Waugh is only uphill from here.

Sambit Bal, editor of Wisden Asia Cricket magazine and Wisden Cricinfo in India, will be following the Indian team throughout this Test series.

RSS Feeds: Sambit Bal

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Email Feedback Print
Sambit BalClose
Sambit Bal Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.
Related Links
News : Match home
News : 2nd day Bulletin
Players/Officials: Steve Waugh
Series/Tournaments: India tour of Australia

'Intimidating presence, bullying attitude'

Modern Masters: Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Manjrekar discuss Matthew Hayden's technique; his sweep, in particular

    'Pietersen was too blunt for England's tastes'

Couch Talk: Simon Wilde talks about his book on Pietersen and reflects on the batsman's controversial career

    'I learnt the importance of flight from Bishan'

My XI: Erapalli Prasanna on his partner in crime, Bishan Bedi

    Why Norman Tebbit was wrong

Rob Steen: Who does it harm whether fans support their national side or not?

The enchantment of a cricket jersey

Russell Jackson: One collectible that cricket nerds love is team shirts, especially ones from their childhood

News | Features Last 7 days

'Kenya cricket is dead and buried'

The veteran spinner's dream spell against Australia in 2003 symbolised a brief golden period for Kenya, but since his retirement, the country's cricket has nose-dived

Dhoni clears the stadium

Plays of the Day from the Champions League T20 match between Chennai Super Kings and Perth Scorchers, in Bangalore

'You can't survive 66 Tests on the basis of a quota'

Ashwell Prince talks about proving critics wrong, scoring hundreds against Australia, and that unending partnership in Colombo

Umar Akmal gives Raza the glare

Plays of the day from the CLT20 match between Dolphins and Lahore Lions in Bangalore

Errant cameras and an unsighted umpire

Plays of the day from Lahore Lions' last league match against Perth Scorchers

News | Features Last 7 days