Australian cricket owes a lot to Steve Waugh

I am always delighted to see good and great players receive due recognition of their talents when they announce their retirement from first class and Test cricket.

I am always delighted to see good and great players receive due recognition of their talents when they announce their retirement from first class and Test cricket.

However, it appears to me that certain media outlets have gone right over the top in acknowledging the contribution made to cricket by Steve Waugh.

Knowing Steve as well as I do I am sure that he would have been embarrassed by this and in particular the coverage by a Sydney tabloid for which he writes a column.

The day after he announced his retirement they devoted no less than 12 pages in covering the announcement. They had stories from just about every columnist on their staff praising his virtues. Some I am sure would have embarrassed him and one in particular suggesting he was as good if not better than Bradman would have had him wince.

For example the writer said: "For me it is not enough that Waugh should be regarded as the best since Bradman. In a fiercely more demanding cricket world he has faced trials and ordeals Bradman never knew."

He also suggests that, "modern cricket with additional countries taking part in a constant world-wide program brings pressures unknown in Bradman's era." And, "Bradman's reputation and his orgy of runs was built principally against England. And at a time in 1948 when England struggled to recover from the carnage and bombing of a war that had ended three years before."

This veteran sporting columnist and some time crime reporter then suggested that the other teams Bradman played against were a struggling South Africa and the fledgling West Indies and India.

What a lot of nonsense. Bradman established his reputation long before 1948 and in fact only came out of retirement to help restore cricket after World War II.

To suggest Bradman played against weak nations probably also weakens his arguments about Waugh's performances.

While the West Indies were a powerful cricketing nation up to 1995 and South Africa were tough for a couple of years when they were re-admitted to Test cricket after their apartheid suspension, most of the other cricketing nations, have not been strong.

The pragmatic Steve Waugh I know would argue, "How can you possibly compare my record, average 51.25 with the bat with Bradman's 99.94?" And indeed how can you? Bradman is an icon and the undisputed greatest batsman in the world of all time.

Steve Waugh has been a magnificent all-round cricketer, a fine and a wonderful captain, a tough competitor, a superb batsman and a very proud Australian. For all that and perhaps even more important, a very loyal citizen of Australia, who has served his country well and with great pride.

I have been fortunate to know Steve since 1994. First as his coach when he came into the NSW team, which I was then looking after and for 10 years from 1986 to 1996 when I coached Australia.

In those years he went through both tough times and great success, was dropped from the Australian team and when he regained his Test berth went on to become the best batsman in the world.

I am always being asked what made Steve so successful.

It is very simple really: pride. In a world where we have "experts" for almost everything, I have always believed and preached that you don't need motivation if you have pride, for this alone will ensure you don't let yourself, the team or your family down.

Steve has pride in abundance. This is why he has been able to overcome adversities and risen to the position in cricket he now holds. Natural talent is an obvious advantage and `Tugger' has it in abundance.

Natural talent can also be self limiting, for, too many sportsmen blessed with talent have difficulty in appreciating that natural talent will only take them so far up the ladder and to complete the climb you need, patience, hard work, a full understanding of cricket and above all the ability to absorb and implement good advice.

Steve was always a good listener, but early in his career he was stubborn and was determined to do it his way. He prospered to some extent and had a golden summer on the 1989 tour of England.

Shortly after, the brutal West Indies attack exposed a weakness in his technique and he was dropped from the Australian team.

At this stage his stubborn pride wouldn't allow him to change his style or technique. Finally he accepted that it didn't matter how you looked as long as you survived the problem balls and lived to fight on. Once he accepted this philosophy and learnt to take singles to get away from the heat he recaptured his ability to get big scores.

Interestingly, while he may have looked awkward to short deliveries he seldom got out to them. His awkwardness may well have also helped his batting succeed since fast bowlers still peppered him with short balls even though they may have had more success pitching the ball up.

I have no doubt that these batting woes gave him a greater understanding of himself and cricket and more sympathy and appreciation of his team-mates and when the time came he had the compassion, toughness and support for his team mates when he became captain of Australia.

There is much to admire about Steve Waugh and his cricket. He has been the perfect captain of a great team and has not been carried away or become arrogant about the success appreciating that very good captains need a great team to be successful.

He was the batting force behind Australia's breakthrough victory in the West Indies in 1995. He served loyally under Mark Taylor's captaincy when he knew he had narrowly missed out on the job and when he did take over he did a superb job. His batting over the last decade has seen him in the top three in the world and undoubtedly the best when it was tough. Perhaps though his greatest contribution was in his early years when Australia were being beaten by almost everyone and none better than in Australia's victory in the 1987 World Cup. Though the youngest member in the team, Stephen earned the tag "ice man" when he accepted the toughest assignment in ODIs, to bowl the death overs.

He was composed, innovative and seemed without fear as he mixed up his deliveries in what seemed an unlimited variation of balls to deceive even the best batsmen. Australian cricket owes a lot to Steve Waugh but none greater than those overs, which set Australia to victory and the platform to what is Australian cricket today.