January 07, 2004 | Peter

Goodbye, Steve.

Goodbye to Steve Waugh, and a nicely timed exit at that. Still near the top of his game, not keeping some deserving young batsman out of the team, and as canny a captain as ever. But his batting was going downhill, and he was right to go.
Steve Waugh embodied how Australians like to think of the national character: not flashy, down-to-earth, best in a crisis, talented enough, and underneath it all a nice bloke. But there was another side to him that probably also reflects changes in the Australian character, a healthy opportunism manifested in his rather too frequent books.
Interestingly, new Labor captain and erstwhile cricket sledger Mark Latham said he’d welcome Steve into the ALP. Is this the start of celebrity politics in OZ, as foreshadowed in my recent OLO piece?
If Steve does go into politics (and who knows which side he’d choose: most of the footballers – with the notable exception of Justin Maddern – seem to be conservatives), I hope he bothers to do some reading and find out a little about social and economic matters, for starters. Over the years parliaments of all kinds have been replete with men and a few women who thought they knew all they needed to when they entered parliament. We just can’t afford that mixture of arrogance and ignorance in our pollies any more.
And spare a thought for Ricky Ponting, the new captain. Unlike Steve, he inherits a team probably in decline. This test series showed just how much Australia relies on McGrath and Warne to bowl opposition sides out (does anyone think India would have made 700 runs if Shane Warne had been bowling? I suspect the Indians murdered McGill’s test career along the way to that total). After the resounding success of Mark Taylor (who was set up by Border’s hard work in the bad old days) and Waugh, Ponting can really only fail. Especially as the other cricket nations seem to be catching up at last (although, what’s the betting on England being top side by 2006, with or without Rod Marsh’s brain-work? Dennis Lillee told me it was Marsh behind Australia’s current all out attack strategy, promoted while he was head of the national academy).
Steve Waugh was a great cricket captain. But ultimately, cricket is a trivial pursuit. I wish Steve the best of luck in whatever he does next, but if it is something in the public eye I trust he knows that it will require much more than was ever asked of him on the cricket field.

Posted by Peter at 12:08 pm | Comments Off on Goodbye, Steve. |
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