The Australian cricket team under Ricky Ponting is still considered one of the toughest team in cricketing history. Under his captaincy, Australia won 48 out of 77 Test matches and outperformed every other cricketing nation in their own backyard as well as on their travels.
But, the seed of this domination was planted by two of his predecessors: Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh. One was an astute leader known for his captaincy skills; the other was an inspirational performer, making a mark with his all-round abilities.
Even though ‘comparison is the death of joy’ as Mark Twain had said once, here is an attempt to analyse these two great skippers:
#1 Captaincy record
Mark Taylor got into the captain’s shoe right after the retirement of Allan Border. Border taught the Australians how to win; Taylor ensured that this winning turned into a habit of success. After him, Steve Waugh was given the job to lead the team, who slowly and steadily turned this habit into an era of world domination.
Both Taylor and Waugh were born to lead their team to ultimate glory. Taylor led Australia in 50 Test matches from 1992 to 1999, while Waugh was at the helm of the Australian cricket team in 57 Test matches.
During their careers as captain, both the captains scored some magnificent wins both at home and away. Taylor led Australia to victory against West Indies in 1995 (first test series win in West Indies since 1973), along with wins in South Africa, England, Pakistan. Waugh helped Australia to win a Test series in New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and home series in Australia.
Here is a look at the captaincy records of both the skippers:
|Test matches as captain||Mark Taylor||Steve Waugh|
Under Taylor’s captaincy, Australia won 9 out of 23 away matches, but Waugh went on to improve this number to 19 out of 28.
Out of these nine losses Waugh faced, three were inflicted by team India (2 in India and 1 in Australia).
#2 Away performance
Taylor made his debut at the age of 25 years in 1989, after playing consistently well for his state side New South Wales. Waugh, who was his state team-mate, was given a chance at a young age of 20 in 1985 to prove his worth against the touring Indian side at MCG. Taylor’s captaincy debut was the tour of Pakistan in 1994-95 while for Waugh, an away series against West Indies in 1998-99 was the first one as captain.
As a batsman, both Taylor and Waugh were phenomenal and averaged more than 40. While Taylor played 104 matches, Waugh went on to represent the country 168 times. Let’s have a look at the batting numbers for both of these fine players:
The consistency in home and away average was one key feature of Taylor's career. He also outnumbered Steve Waugh with three second innings away centuries compared to Waugh's one. His highest score of mammoth 334* came on a Peshawar track against Pakistan in 1998.
He enjoyed batting in English conditions, where he scored five centuries. One of his best match-winning knock was his 102 not out in the second innings at Bengaluru, 1998.
A striking aspect of Waugh's away numbers is the batting average of 55.50. Amongst the players playing in the 21st century, it is the fourth highest after Andy Flower, Hashim Amla, and Jacques Kallis.
Just like Taylor, England was his favourite away country and he scored 7 out of his 17 away centuries, followed by 4 in West Indies and 2 in Pakistan. One of his best knocks of 177* came against England at Old Trafford in 1989.
#3 Contribution in winning
The number of victories delivered is one of the most important characteristics that separates a good player from a great player. In his career of 104 matches, Mark Taylor was part of 52 wins (Winning percentage of 50%) with an average of 45.92, which was slightly better than his overall average.
Out of his 19 Test centuries, 11 came in the winning cause. Steve Waugh was part of a winning team on 86 occasions (winning percentage of 51%). His average in those 86 matches is a staggering 69.46; this is third highest ever for an Australian player after the great Don Bradman and Greg Chappell (for the players who have been the part of winning team on more than 30 occasions).
Of his 32 centuries, 25 (78%) came in his country’s winning cause, which certainly emphasised his importance to his team. One important number is the Test wins in his whole test career. Waugh stands at 3rd position with 86 wins which is lower than only two of his teammates, Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne.
#4 Forging partnerships
Mark Taylor was one of the most prolific opening batsmen in his time, as well as a great slip fielder for Australia. Steve Waugh was a solid middle order batsman and a part time bowler. The partnership between the Waugh twins was very crucial for the Aussies in the middle order.
They amassed 3,435 runs in 73 matches with nine 100+ runs and nineteen 50+ runs partnerships. In the matches that Australia won, their partnership averaged 66.84. The Waugh brothers also hold a unique record for most number of matches together for Australia, playing 108 matches together.
The base of this partnership, on most occasions, was the strong start given by openers Mark Taylor and Michael Slater. This partnership is the third highest in the history of Australian Test cricket with 3887 runs in 78 matches with an average of 51.14, only behind the likes of Hayden-Langer and Hayden-Ponting.
For Taylor, his most prolific partnership was with Ian Healy, with whom he played 103 times in baggy green.
The Taylor-Warne duo has also been exceptional for team Australia. Taylor, the safe catcher, was always on hand to pouch balls that came his way off the bowling of Warne. This pair snatched 51 victims which is highest for an Australian bowler-fielder combination and is the overall third highest behind Murli-Jayawardene and Kumble-Dravid.
Taylor is the third Australian with more than 150 catches in Test matches only behind Ricky Ponting and Mark Waugh.
#5 Batting positions
Mark Taylor batted for his whole career as an opener, facing the likes of Walsh-Ambrose, Akram-Waqar, in their prime, with the new ball. Each and every one of his 186 innings was played at this very position.
Steve Waugh was a bit flexible with his batting order, even though most of his runs came at lower middle order position of No. 5. Nearly 62% (6754 out of 10927) of his runs were scored at this batting position with an average of 56.28. Even at no. 6, he averaged 51.05 with 3165 runs.
Here is a look at few of their unforgettable innings:
#1 Mark Taylor 334* vs Pakistan at Peshawar, 1998
Playing in the second test match against Pakistan, Taylor decided to declare Australia’s first innings at 599/4 at the start of day 3. This came after Taylor’s amazing unbeatable knock of 334 runs.
He had a chance to go ahead of Don Bradman as the highest individual scorer in an innings for Australia, but, against the wish of his teammates (who actually voted against the declaration), he decided to give his bowlers enough time to bowl Pakistan out twice and thus wrap up the series.
Tubby, as he was called by his teammates, was praised by Bradman himself for this gesture.
#2 Steve Waugh 200 vs West Indies at Kingston, 1995
The fourth and last match of the series, with both the teams tied at 1-1, and the series on the line, Waugh came to crease at no. 5 with Australia in trouble at 73-3. Partnering with his younger brother, he added 231 runs to the total before adding 113 more with Greg Blewett to put Australia in a commanding position with the score of 531.
Australia went on to win this match and the series, thus marking their first win in West Indian soil in 22 years.