Steve Waugh must be getting soft in his old age. Arguably the toughest cricketer to wear the Baggy Green of Australia, Waugh’s reputation for mentally disintegrating his opponents is renowned.
A famed tale is his line “You just dropped the World Cup” to Herschelle Gibbs after the former Proteas opener spilled a catch in the World Cup Super Six encounter at Headingley in 1999.
The incident preceded the dramatic semi-final tie four days later at Edgbaston between the same two teams that saw Australia progress to the final where they beat Pakistan at Lord’s.
But 20 years later, with Waugh now 54 and silver-haired, the former Australia captain believes Gibbs, and the Proteas, finally deserve some respite.
“After 20 years, enough is enough,” Waugh said.
“I would like to think people would give Herschelle a break now. He was a fantastic cricketer, and he’s copped enough over that.
It’s the same with (Allan) Donald and (Lance) Klusener, they are all great cricketers.
“If you look at the match that we didn’t win – we tied – we made a lot of mistakes too. Unfortunately for them, it was their one that proved costly.
“I think for everyone’s sake it is time to move on in South African cricket and clean the slate and look towards the next World Cup.”
South Africa certainly are preparing to start afresh after a diabolical World Cup campaign. The Proteas won just three out of nine matches, although they had the small satisfaction of returning home having achieved a consolation victory over the Aussies in the 20-year reunion clash in Manchester.
Waugh admitted expecting more from the Proteas here in the UK.
“I thought they would do really well actually, flying just below the radar, unlike other times when they have been regarded as one of the favourites which maybe has stopped them from performing at their best,” he said.
“They showed their potential in the last game, so they will be disappointed.
“They had a better side than the results, and they could have been really competitive, as we saw in the last game against Australia. They had the potential to beat anyone in the competition.”
Upon his retirement, Waugh has thrown himself into his charity work, and alongside being a Laureus Academy Ambassador, he is now actively involved in the growth of “criiio” – a celebration of social cricket launched by the ICC to engage an existing community of millions of social cricketers from around the world.
The growth of the game, and its long-term sustainability and appeal, remains imperative to him, but the flames of traditionalism continue to burn strong.
“For me, Test cricket is where it’s still at. Financially, though, there are other opportunities for players. They can’t knock it back, it’s their job, it’s their business and they need to look after their families. But as long as we don’t take away from Test cricket I’m happy.
“I don’t know where we’re going. I didn’t know about 100-ball cricket until the other day. Maybe street cricket is next up but as long as people are enjoying playing the game it’s good.”