A fine all-rounder

THE retirement of Mark Waugh from Tests will leave a huge hole in Australian cricket.

Not only for the runs he has scored, the enjoyment he has given but the matches he has won off his own bat and the superb catches he has taken which have turned the matches in Australia's favour.

Since the second World War only Don Bradman, Doug Walters and Mark Waugh have had the talent and intuition that it takes to singularly change the fortunes of a game by their own batting genius.

While we have had many great batsmen in this time such as Neil Harvey, Greg Chappell and Steve Waugh who aided victories, Bradman, Walters and Mark Waugh had the capacity to change and then win matches on their own.

While Bradman and to a lesser extent Walters brutalised the opposition bowlers, Mark Waugh charmed them into submission.

While he dominated bowlers and was easily Australia's longest six hitter of his period, he always looked as though he had just caressed the ball to send it into the wide blue yonder.

I have always said that if I was given, in after life, the opportunity to watch just one batsman for an hour, I would like it to be Norman O'Neill.

Norman was a joy to watch and I marvelled at his grace and talent but always on a knife edge of emotion just wondering how long these glorious exhibitions could last.

Like Doug Walters and Mark Waugh, Norman was supposed to be a little unreliable.

Sometimes they did get out in unusual and spectacular ways and that made them even more exciting.

All three were branded as being unreliable but all three averaged over 40 per Test innings.

It is amazing how perception and publicity can be confused. While Ian Chappell was universally accepted as being Mr. Tenacious and reliable, he averaged less than the "unreliable" Walters and O'Neill. Mark Waugh averaged just a tad less.

When you add the other string to Waugh's cricketing bow you have a fine all-rounder. As a bowler, Mark had the versatility to make himself adept at pace, swing or spin.

When I first saw him he was a real tearaway with quite a lot of pace. In fact, in his first season in first class cricket in 1985-86, I had him opening the bowling for NSW and he could send them down as quickly as any one in the side.

Mark loved to bowl bouncers and would take on any batsman regardless of his reputation.

He also had the knack of looking like a lucky bowler - except, I don't thing that luck had much to do with it.

Like Ian Botham at his best, Mark bowled with a lot of imagination and variety and often got batsmen out with the latest tricky, though often innocuous looking delivery.

As a fieldsman, Mark has the incalculable advantage of having the softest hands in the business, a cushion which gives with the ball and rarely allows a chance to escape.

If he gets a hand on half a chance at slip, he can usually hold the rebound because the ball never bounces far out of his grasp, in the outfield. He has a relaxed body which allows him to adjust even when the ball bounces awkwardly.

Even on the roughest outfield you seldom see him fumble. Mark moves very quickly for a big man, has a strong arm and rarely waits a second, getting rid of the ball.

Like his twin Steve, Mark has a lot of sleight-of-hand tricks and when they decide to get competitive, it is one of the great delights of the game.

He would have made a even larger reputation as a first slip, if given much opportunity, but wherever he stands in the cordon, he has the old fashion virtue of letting the ball come to him rather than offering his hands to the ball.

This trait means he can take the ball late and enables him to hold on to chances very wide of his body - and sometimes behind him.

I have been flattered that critics have said I was a good slips catcher and if I am considered as good as Mark Waugh I would be flattered.

There has always been a mistaken belief that Mark Waugh was too casual and lacked dedication.

This of course is utter rubbish and you can't last as long in the game or achieve the same success as he has unless you are dedicated and in love with the game.

He has shown yet again his love for cricket by deciding to play on and put something back in the game.

Not for him a cushy seat in the Channel Nine commentary box and a retirement from all cricket like recent players such as Ian Healy and Mark Taylor.

He will play on for NSW and put something back in the game. He will also play county cricket in England.

Mark Waugh has a fine cricketing brain and would make a magnificent captain for NSW. He is keen to do this and NSW should jump at the chance.

NSW, once the dominating state in Australian cricket, have finished last for the last two years in the Sheffield Shield and badly need help, experience and common sense at the top level.

Mark Waugh is the person to restore pride and success to this once proud cricketing State.