You ought to be ready for the consequences, if and when you poke the lion. Even the mighty Curtly Ambrose found that out at the Queen's Park Oval 18 years ago. As a cricketer, Steve Waugh was fierce, some would say 100% Australian. But those are attributes he left behind at the SCG. In 1998, Waugh's friendship with India bloomed, hours after a heavy defeat at Eden Gardens, when an anonymous letter was pushed under his hotel door in Kolkata.
The next thing you know the leprosy-affected children of Udayan have changed his life forever. "During my initial trips to India, it was about cricket. But later I realised that there are so many underprivileged children here who don't have the same privileges that we Australians had while growing up. It pained me and made me look inside and find ways to help them. And I've dedicated my life to these causes," Waugh said during a promotional event.
Having completed his media formalities, Waugh, evidently drained by the spotlight, could have easily slipped back to the comfort of his hotel room. Instead he shook hands and toiled in conversations with scores of people, half of whom never witnessed his batting gems. "I love Indians. I love their warmth," he reiterates.
The colour of Waugh's drink changed at least four times within a few hours. But he took time out and spoke to HT.
How do you react to Australia’s inability to regain the Ashes?
I am not very disappointed, to be honest. There have been a lot of positives for Australia. Michael Clarke is doing a fantastic job as skipper. It was unfortunate that the weather ruined our chances at Old Trafford. We should have won that Test and the series would still be alive. But I guess the weather gods were on England’s side.
What’s your view on ICC’s new playing conditions on bad light?
It’s important for everyone to be a little flexible. You are cheating the spectators sometimes. If ICC and the umpires were a little more flexible, Australia would have got to bowl more overs on Sunday, and a result would have been possible. I can understand Clarke’s frustration.
On Sunday, an hour after play was abandoned, the sun shone between 7 and 8 pm. Should play have been restarted?
Absolutely, because even the spectators who have arrived at the ground want to get their money’s worth and see a full day’s play. When conditions are perfect for cricket, an effort should be made to restart. There has to be a sense of flexibility from ICC. As governors of the game, they too want results, and give spectators what they want. Even TV audiences suffer. If you restart play, everyone benefits. That’s why these new rules need to be looked into.
How would you compare the coaching structure in Australia and India?
Over the years, Australia has always had the best academies, the best system to identify a talent pool and compete at the highest level. We need to start believing in ourselves again. I think you guys (Indians) have a better system in place today. And we’d actually like to use some of your coaches (laughs).
You’ve been part of Olympic contingents. Where is India headed as a sporting nation?
One thing I’ve noticed a lot, since I keep coming to India, is that interest in other sports has improved over the last few years. There is definitely a feeling that kids out there want to play more than just cricket. I obviously can’t say the same about your hockey structure. I’ve been around, and discovered that India has only 14 astro turfs. A small nation like Holland has 400 astro turfs. It’s a shame since hockey was a popular Indian sport at a time.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.