Steve Waugh’s retirement from Test cricket casts a dark cloud over the sport

by Gamimi Perera
The retirement of Australian cricket legend Steve Waugh from the Test arena with effect from January 2004 has cast a dark cloud over the sport. The Island of November 27 carried the news along with a photograph for the benefit of its readers.

Nevertheless, Steve’s exit from the One-Day International series against South Africa in April, 2002 was highlighted in the world press as: "Waugh’s sad exit". At that time, Waugh had represented Australia in 325 ODIs and remained as one of the champion cricketers of the modern era.

For Steve, it was something new in his 17-year-old career to leave behind his team mates as they prepared for the battle.

In the meantime, Ricky Ponting was to lead a remodelled Australian One Dayer team in seven games in South Africa and three in Zimbabwe. Waugh’s axing from the one-day team meant that he had to fly home between Australia’s winning Test series in South Africa and the scheduled tour of Zimbabwe. Since debuting Australia against New Zealand at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG) in the 1985/86 series, Waugh had helped his country to clinch two World Cup victories and was skipper for Australia in regular success in one-dayer championships the world over.

A difficult goodbye

When asked by the media as to what he thought of his axing from the One Dayer series, Waugh said: "I admit that it is very difficult to say goodbye to my team mates after being a regular member of the one dayer unit for so long. Would rather have been playing the one-dayers, but, I’ve got some time off now which is good."

He also said that, "I can relax and get away from cricket and spend some time with the family and hopefully get back for the Zimbabwe series." Waugh at that time would have thought that he had to face a distinct reality that his limited overs career was over after scoring 7569 runs at an average of 32.91 and also taken 195 wickets at an average of 34.69.

Before he left, he said, "it will be unusual to pack up and leave the side. It’s been 17 long years of service with the one dayer side. I am not there now any longer and it’s a strange feeling."

On his return home, Waugh didn’t have any competitive cricket to play, as the domestic season had ended, but had spent the time at indoor nets working on his ailing batting.

Steve had accounted for only 169 runs at an average of 33.8 in the three tests series in South Africa and 438 at average of 33.69 in nine Tests that summer.

Nevertheless, the selectors were keen on keeping him solely for his superb captaincy record.

There was a feeling that Steve’s one-dayer axing could prolong his Test career. His exit from the Test arena will certainly be a blow to the Aussies.

The Aussies, as well as cricket fans the world over will miss this gentleman cricketer who has enjoyed a wonderful career. To his team mates, Steve was a great example both on and off the field.

As Ricky Ponting, the man who wants to succeed Waugh, says: "what is important to me is that all of us will be enjoying Steve’s farewell series an event which will be something very special."