“Fare thee well, Junior”

Have been at a course last couple of days – so haven’t had anytime to
comment on the demise of Junior.

However, I nice long train trip or two gave me plenty of time to pen some thoughts:

29 October 2002. I’m sitting in a train writing this special edition, so please forgive me if any figures that I present are wrong. As City Rail does not offer internet ports as yet, I will be working from memory today. And what fond memories. It’s actually a little embarrassing, sitting here, sobbing. I’ve made a mess on the suit of the Indian man sitting next to me – it is soaked with my tears. But he probably understands – Mark Waugh is loved in India, as he is throughout the cricket world.

The purpose of this edition is not to discuss the rights or wrongs of Mark Waugh’s dropping. I wish to remember Mark Waugh the cricketer. Not even Mark Waugh the man – perhaps Mark Waugh “the man” is little less impressive than Mark Waugh “the cricketer”.

For the record, my personal opinion is that the selectors got it right – it is time to move on. I also believe that it was good to avoid dropping both Waughs at the same time. It is hard to deny Boof Lehmann has earned another shot – I’m sure he will do the job admirably. But let’s face it, Lehmann is almost as old as Mark Waugh (well, 32) and maybe the selectors should have gone for some new blood. Michael Clarke has been put forward by some. Aside from being from NSW, he is young, looks the goods and has the form on the board. But back to Mark Waugh.

Tests: 128
Runs: 8029 at 41.82, 47 x 50s, 20 x 100s (Best 153* v India)
Catches: 181
Wickets: 59 at 41.17 (Best 5/40 v England)

Mark Edward Waugh (“Junior”) was born in 2 June 1965 on the same day as his older brother, Stephen Rodger. He was born into a sporting family, with both parents excelling at various sports including squash, tennis and others. The four Waugh boys all followed in the Waugh tradition of being sport lovers.

As a youngster, Mark excelled at both soccer and cricket. He chose cricket over soccer and what a good choice it was.

Mark had to endure almost five years of waiting for his Test call-up after brother Steve was selected in the mid-eighties. In fact, one of Mark’s nicknames was “Afghanistan” – the forgotten Waugh. Ironically, when Mark was finally selected during the Ashes summer of 1990-91, it was at the expense of Stephen. Mark strode to the crease and peeled off 138 of the best looking runs you could ever see. During the innings, Ian Chappell observed (and this is one of the few intelligent things he has ever said), “When Steve Waugh was picked for Test cricket, he was chosen on potential but he wasn’t really ready, and struggled. But Mark Waugh is a mature cricketer – he is well and truly ready for Test cricket.” Very profound.

The fans didn’t have long to wait for the twins to be together in Test cricket and great things were expected from them. And great things they delivered. However, it has always been a little disappointing for me that they didn’t often do great things together – century partnerships were few and far between. In the early days, when they both seemed set, a run out was usually not far away. There were only a handful of times (two or three?) that they both scored a century in the one innings. Of course, the most famous of those was in the fourth Test in the West Indies in 1994-95 when they hard a partnership of 231 (Mark 126 and Steve 200) – a stand which won the match and the series.

I’m sure Don Bradman would have found Mark Waugh frustrating – he couldn’t understand batsmen who got out when they were in total control. For Mark Waugh, it often seemed that how the runs were scored was more important than how many. Mark Waugh scored more beautiful 60’s and 70’s than I can recall. This did seem to make him a little at odds with the game itself – the bottom line in Test cricket is how many – there are no points for style or artistic impression. Except if you are a fan and a cricket lover, and Mark Waugh scored many points for style with them. I, personally, saw him several times at the SCG and saw him make 100 against South Africa and 116 against Pakistan. His batting late in the day against South Africa was some of the best that I have ever seen. He hit boundary after boundary and launched Pat Symcox onto the Hill. I was glad to return to the ground the next day and see him make his hundred.

It is a little disappointing that Mark didn’t make any really big hundreds – he passed 150 just once in a dead rubber against India (153*) and had plenty of scores in the one thirties and one forties. I believe that it was often annoying for him to be compared with Steve – a 50 plus average man with many scores over the 150 mark and a high score of 200. In fact, Steve has scored more than 150 against all Test playing nations with which Australia has competed.

But what about the highlights and the lowlights. Let’s start with the highlights.

I can’t cover them all but my favourites are:

Three joyous tours of England – 1993, 1997 and 2001 where runs were had by all, including Mark Waugh, of course. Perhaps the final tour was the sweetest. Mark had been under pressure (from the Press, at least) for his spot in the team the previous summer and produced a vintage year. He continued that form into the Ashes series. He scored two centuries, including a coveted century at Lord’s (112 ensuring his name is now up on the wall in the dressing room) and participated in an amusing double act, scoring 120 as crippled brother Steve struggled to 100. Steve could hardly walk, let alone run, and was not eligible for a runner as he had carried the injury into the match. Steve hit his way to 100 (and ultimately 157*) in boundaries but I don’t think Mark was amused by the many runs he was denied simply because is brother couldn’t run. In the end Mark hit out and holed out – or was cleaned up – one or the other. The partnership was worth 197.

Mark was probably at his best during 1996 – 1998. During that time, he featured prominently in two series against South Africa. Australia won both series narrowly, and Mark was instrumental in winning and drawing crucial matches.

In the second Test in South Africa, Australia was set 275 to win. This in itself was amazing given that they trailed by 100 plus on the first innings and South Africa was 1-100 in the second dig. Mark held Australia’s chase together on a difficult last-day wicket and scored about 115, only losing his wicket with the line in sight. As it was, Ian Healy won the match in spectacular fashion, hitting Hansie Cronje for six in a flurry of wickets and runs as Australia held on by two wickets.

In the return series in Australia the following summer, Junior scored two centuries. Exactly 100 in Sydney and an unbeaten 116 (or thereabouts) in Adelaide – an innings which saved the match and the series lead for Australia. This match was also notable in that Kerry O’Keefe made a useful analogy on the radio. Australia needed to bat the entire day to save the match and there was no real prospect of victory. They were a couple down at stumps on day four with Mark Waugh at the crease. On the morning of day 5, O’Keefe made the remarks something like “Mark Waugh is going to have to roll up the sleeves of the dinner jacket today and get dirty like a tradesman.” And thus he did – he batted all day to save the match – and survived one of the more extraordinary incidents in Test cricket. A ball had struck him in the elbow and as he backed from the stumps in great pain, his arm involuntarily straightened causing his bat to smash the stumps. The incident was referred to the third umpire who adjudged not out, ruling that the stumps were not broken during the act of the batsman playing a the shot. Controversy all round. I think Hansie Cronje only shut-up about it when they found a few hundred thousand dollars under his bed.

Mark Waugh has been a useful bowler for Australia but more so in his earlier years. As a young man he bowled quite lively medium pacers which did a bit and was more than useful. His best bowling figures were 5/40 at the Adelaide Oval in 1994-1995 versus England. For some years, due to injury, Waugh has bowled off-breaks. And although they sometimes have nice shape, they don’t do much off the pitch. He himself calls them “nude breaks” – as they have nothing on them!

And of course there is Mark Waugh the catcher. Maybe there have been better slippers than Mark Waugh. And quite possibly not. However, I don’t believe that there has ever been anyone who made slips catching look so easy. His world record of 181 catches from 128 matches is a rate of 1.41 catches per match – which is unsurpassed over such a long period and is not a record which will be broken for a very long time. He will be sadly missed in that area, particularly by Warnie.

And there is Mark Waugh the one-day cricketer. After making the transition to opener many years ago with the demise of Slats and Tubs, he scored many a glorious century. Highlights were the highest score by an Australian with a score of over 170 two summers ago and the 1996 World Cup. Australia did not win the cup on that occasion but it was Mark Waugh’s world cup. He scored three centuries in the tournament including 130 in the quarter final as Australia over hauled a very large New Zealand total (about 288).

And what career would be complete without some lowlights? There haven’t been many and most would be forgotten.

In the early nineties, Australia toured Sri Lanka and Mark Waugh managed a pair of pairs in the 2nd and 3rd Tests. That’s right – four ducks on the trot. He went by the name “Audi” for a while after that. Think about it.

Maybe scoring 99 in a Test match isn’t a real low point but I regard this particular 99 as one. Mark Waugh, while batting at Lords in 1993, the first three batsmen having already made centuries, had reached 99. Then ensued one of the most pitiful dismissals ever to be witnessed. Phil Tuffnel, bowling left-arm orthodox, over the wicket tossed one up a yard outside leg stump. Waugh thrust his from foot at it and I can’t remember exactly how, but the ball eventually cannoned into the stumps.

And then there is Mark Waugh the weatherman. Who knows what part Warnie and Mark Waugh played in the activities that tarnished cricket worldwide and forever. What ever the case, this was a definite lowlight and one that lost Mark Waugh many supporters.

So it’s farewell to Mark Waugh. He seemed to accept the decision in typical laconic style and seemed to hold a good press conference. The Blues pick up a good bat for the rest of the season and channel nine may have a new recruit. I’ll miss him. Along with 90% of humanity, I don’t always embrace change and the Australian cricket team has had two Waughs for 12 years. It won’t seem the same without both of them.

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