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FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME: Watching the Waughs was War and Poetry

RAJIV RADHAKRISHNAN: In years to come they will remain Australia’s favourite sons, even more so than the Chappells. They played their cricket the Australian way, to entertain, and they did so with distinction

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Steve and Mark Waugh

I was always fascinated by the careers of Steve and Mark Waugh. In an article, around the mid-1990s, The Times referred to them as the “Twin Pillars of Australia, Far from Identical in Outlook”.

That statement summed up the brothers perfectly; Steve was a thinker of the game and learnt its history while Mark only saw cricket as a hobby, a pastime to enjoy. A stranger to cricket would never know they were related; they had their separate lives and were probably physically at their closest only when batting together and, even then, that was still 22 yards apart.

In the field when catches were taken by either Waugh and the ensuing celebrations commenced, all the team rushed in to commend one brother with hugs and high fives; except the other, who merely gave a quick tap on his sibling's shoulder.

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Our columnist Rajiv Radharkrishnan remembers the brothers' playing careers fondly

They were so awkward in each other’s presence. My favourite Waugh story is how Steve was dropped for Mark to make his debut. Steve came back to the family home and informed Mark he was selected for Australia.

Mark asked who he had replaced, and Steve said it was himself. Apparently, their mother cried; she need not have. They would go on to represent Australia more than 100 times together.

I first saw Steve bat in 1989 at Lord’s where he scored a gritty unbeaten 152 which prevented England coming back into the series.

Twelve summers later I was at Lord’s again and this time saw Mark score a fluid 108. Those two visits to Lord’s were thus War and Poetry.

In between I watched the brothers each score a century and dismantle 15 years of West Indian dominance, Steve play the greatest innings in World Cup cricket, Mark take on a hostile South African pace attack and lead his team to victory, Steve bat through a day, Mark dominate the 1996 World Cup, and read about their fifth-wicket first-class partnership record; and let’s not forget they could both bowl and catch superbly.

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The pair are very different characters

Steve got the captaincy fairly late in his career, Mark was given the vice captaincy occasionally. I was peeved that a latecomer like Adam Gilchrist leapfrogged Mark for the leadership role. I wanted both twins to have been bestowed with Australia’s greatest honour.

Mark had a superb cricket brain, it was unfair he was not allowed to demonstrate his captaincy skills. From a marketing perspective, having the twins as captain and vice-captain just seemed too romantic. They were not without controversy. Steve’s catch to dismiss Lara in 1995, his poor handling of Slater and Mark’s association with bookmakers did take a little gloss off their careers.

However, in years to come they will remain Australia’s favourite sons, even more so than the Chappells.  They played their cricket the Australian way, to entertain, and they did so with distinction.

Spin, spin goes the wheel of time, they are both still missed a decade after retiring; but after the Waughs Australian cricket continues to battle…

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