Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Book Review: Steve Waugh : Out of My Comfort Zone - III



Previously: Book Review Part 2 & Part 1

Some of the other interesting topics this book touches upon is the match fixing controversy, captaincy, and , in the earlier part of the book, his come back. For most part Waugh's description of his career seems to reflect a big struggle for survival. Even during his captaincy his descriptions constantly border on his struggle to score runs. For some strange reason his book never hits a confident assured patch that his statistics seem to suggest.

Captaincy:

That I was vulnerable to the lure of arguments is well known among my friends. That it led to many interesting friendships was the only saving grace. I met one of my closest friends, 6-7 years ago and our first conversation was on the world cup controversy - where Waugh batted slowly against Windies to help them qualify (eventually in vain) for Super Six. In the 1999 WC, There was a possibility of Windies qualifying into the super six on better run rate. This would ensure that the Australians would go into the Super Six with 2 points. India would have been similarly better off if Eng or SL qualified. The key was India couldn't control Eng or SL's fate whereas Aus had some, but significant, control over WI's fate. I clearly felt the objective of any team was to win the World Cup and not each one of the individual battles. If I were an Australian supporter, I would rather see Australia win the World Cup and wouldn't care crap as to how fast/slow Australia won against WI.

Losing a game deliberately was/is against the rules of the game. By an extension, losing a tournament deliberately was also against the rules. So by my logic - if Australia hit those 116 odd runs quickly, it reduced their chances of winning the tournament - dramatically. So if they went for the runs fast, it would mean that they tried to lose deliberately. Forget about letting Windies or anybody else go through (at some other team's expense), its about your team, it was against rules, common sense and plain old logic to even think of scoring those runs fast. That the majority opinion was for batting fast is even greater indication that such a move is stupid. To me the only Indian captain who would have done what Waugh did was Rahul Dravid. Eventually the Ind Vs Aus tie became a knock out with the loser exiting (only a highly improbable chance remained) after the first game of Super Six. Waugh had this to say on the episode "It is hard to devise a fool proof system and a flaw in this one (tournament) meant that, after dismissing the West Indies for just 110, once we got close to victory it was in our best interests to slow down our run rate to help the Windies out. Bevo and I dawdled our way to the last 20 runs in 20 overs of unappealing, boring cricket, but I felt we owed it to each other to give ourselves the best chance of winning the tournament. This was one step along the way. I knew I'd cop a blast at the postmatch press conference and in the subsequent days, but I was steadfast, if not a little hot-headed, when I said "We're not here to win friends, just the world cup" ". This attitude and the 'dead rubber' focus was the main reason I rated Waugh highly as a captain.
Match Fixing:

On the match fixing controversy, Waugh starts with the first test match at Karachi after Taylor took over as captain. The sentence where he first talks about the episode taken out of context reads like this "and to cap it off Ian Healy missing a stumping chance when the home side needed three runs to win. The ball went for 4 byes and we lost after Pakistan put on a 57-run last wicket partnership. The match was tarnished forever by the discovery that Pak captain Salim Malik had offered $US200000 each to Tim May and Shane Warne to deliberately bowl poorly on day 5 of a match that at the time was balanced on knife's edge." He then describes how it probably all started "October 1, at the Pearl Continental Hotel, a phone call from Pakistan skipper Salim Malik, 'the rat with the golden tooth', had set the wheels in motion" but Waugh also has this to say about the way the allegations were handled "too much information was recalled from memory and not from documented notes; it was here that inaccuracies, discrepancies and conflicting information led to a clouded picture". Some of the information that Steve Waugh provides is "The first sign for me was an out-of-blue phone call from Pakistan's former test captain, Mushtaq Mohammed, to Allan Border at Trent Bridge during the fifth ashes test of 1993." Border who returned with a stunned look after the call said "What a twat. Tell him to piss off"

A year later he recollects that in a ODI in Colombo, when Pakistan was chasing 180 and were 2/80 in the first fifteen, Saeed Anwar retired with cramps, Waugh came to bowl and took 3/16 from 10 overs. He remembers thinking "Why are these guys blocking everything? Am I really bowling that well that they can't get me off square on such a flat, batsman friendly pitch?. Salim Malik was particularly watchful of my non-deviating medium pacers, and we ran out surprise winners by 28 runs". This wasn't Waugh's closest encounter with match fixing. He says that in a function in Rawalpindi, Warne and Mark Waugh came up to him and - " Into our group came Mark Waugh and Shane Warne, with body language suggesting that something was amiss. Warney pretty much came out with it straight away: 'Well, junior are you going to tell Stephen?'. Mark said looking at me 'Malik just offered $200000 to be split up among Maysie, Warney and us two if we played poorly tomorrow". Waugh's response to the offer was "Tell him to fuck off". On Mark Waugh's episode, Waugh has a lot of things to say but this one was particulaly funny - When the Waugh parents were getting a lot of heat from church gossip and neighborhood sledging, Waugh's father, who ran a news agency refused to sell papers that had negative comments about Mark at his own cost. On our Bai, he has this to say "Two guys who I would never never have imagined being involved in match-fixing were India's Mohd. Azharuddin and South Africa's Hansie Cronje." " Azharuddin was a shy, quiet, modest man blessed with extraordinary gifts for cricket and a common touch that enabled him to relate to the average guy on the street.". On Cronje, waugh spends 2 pages and describes all his interactions with him.
On Indian cricketers:

On Sachin, Waugh describes in great detail one of my favorite Sachin innings, the 90+ one in Bombay during 96 WC. He says the surfeit of ODIs is the reason why "many uplifting or inspirational segments of play have been lost over time. But listening to crowd urge on Sachin after he lost 2 early partners ... was enough to know this was one special occasion. After a shaky start Sachin came to life during an over from McGrath, in an assault that left everyone in the jam-packed stadium, including me with goosebumps. The atmosphere was charged and crowd gelled together in one animated mass. A savage pull shot that defied textbooks." " It was followed by a remarkably improvised hook shot off the front foot that only a man with an eye like dead fish would think of playing. " Two balls later we were...standing helplessly as he unleashed a scorching cover drive" - A truly fantastic innings. Waugh has been involved in Australia's really tense WC encounters with India - in 87, 92, 96 ( and then Aus destroyed Ind in 99, 03). On his first and last test games against India. He had this to say on the series and Indian team "We had to recognize that this wasn't the soft-underbelly Indian touring squad, but rather a hardened force forged by Ganguly, their feisty leader, who saw his own reputation being gouged out by the outcome of his team's duels with Australia." Waugh also points out the obvious flaw Australian scheduling team, which often left me wondering whether the BCCI pays extra money to schedule Australian test matches since 1992 " not helping us was the fact that no test in this series was played at the WACA, where a bouncy pitch meant a virtually guaranteed victory for us"

On Dravid, Waugh says "Rahul's batting was poetic, with flowing follow-throughs and easy hand-eye coordination. We'd formed mutual respect that started in 98 with a long dinner conversation about cricket, where he quizzed me endlessly about the mental side of the game. Rahul wanted that edge that would elevate his game to the next level, and at Adelaide, he completed the journey. As an opponent I respected his professionalism, and as a friend, I admired his balanced views and the way he treated people from all walks of life equally.". His comments on Indian team and their games against Australia are marked by 2 big strategic mistakes that the Indians did. Sachin Tendulkar stupidly opened the bowling with Saurav Ganguly in the post-lunch session on the first day of first test in 1999 with Australia at 50/4 and lost the match. Ganguly stupidly changed bowlers from Sanghvi to Sachin when Aus were 50'ish/4 in the post lunch session on Mumbai 1st test. India lost the match. It is ironic.

On retirement:
A test career, which began with his first test against India - "As I had always done, I took guard on center, for no other reason than my first cricket coach had told me to stand in front of the stumps and ask the umpire at the other end to tell me where the middle one was. I scratched a nervous mark in the soil and saw a sticky, thick mud cling to my half-spikes as I glanced around to get my bearings. I tried to avoid eye contact with eager Indian fielders who had gathered around me like seagull after a greasy chip. The keeper Syed Kirmani, and Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Mohinder Amarnath seemed relaxed and expectant in their semi-crouched positions, while the 'smiling knife', Ravi Shastri steadied himself at the bowlers end. My legs were weak, my breathing was shallow and my mind set was survival" - ended with 168 test matches with the last one against India "My last shot as an Australian batsman was a mistimed slog-sweep off Kumble that Tendulkar calmly accepted close to the boundary rope at deep square leg. My walk off the ground was surreal, with Indian players running up to congratulate me and the capacity crowd standing as one. I was pleased and satisfied that I'd helped save a test, glad we hadn't lost the series and humbled by the attention."

8 comments:

Arvind said...

Just a quick note to say "good post" or rather, the whole series. I'm definitely not into cricket enough to follow statistics, history or read books. However, having seen Steve Waugh play many years - I really did enjoy your take on the book.

Sowmya said...

book review ellam book length'kku irukka koodadhu'nu rule undu.

Deepa said...

Enna pa hawkeye, are you getting to read a book after a long time? I decided to leave a comment to let you know that you are overdoing the Steve Waugh part. Saravana Bhavan patthi ezhudhu.:-)

Anonymous said...

The critics and so called arm chair experts always argue that the way Steve and Bevan batted against WI was against the spirit of the game. But to me as a westindian supporter and an australian hater it was a great move.

I would always counter ppl who argue that the slow batting was against the spirit, I would ask what about a situation where a team if they win in 40 overs they go thro with a bonus point and they go for that target , would you call that against the spirit, in this case the same thing applied except the other way around... Poor wondians bolwed a wide and finished the game or else steve would have dragged it on for another couple of overs or so.....and wondies would have qualified....

Arksantos said...

Hawkeye,

Please don't stop the steve waugh posts. I cant get the book here in the US. I really enjoy your take on it.
I would also like your take on Saravana Bhavan :)

GasquetFan said...

The post was ok. But Steve Waugh was an ordinary talent. I'd rather read about Mark Waugh and Damien Martyn. And ofcourse Sachin Tendulkar, when he tells his tale without a ghost writer even if it he does so in horrible english.

Rastafari said...

Hawkeye,
Loved all 3 posts on Waugh and more importantly, the comments section of those posts :)

And by the by, Saravana Bhavan sucks

Deepa said...

rastafari down down!:-)