Philip Boylan (left) wrote this article about Steve Waugh, Ireland's 1998 guest player, which appeared in the Irish Independent on 10th August 1998.
Stephen Rodger Waugh (twin brother of Mark Edward)
Born: 2 June 1965, Canterbury (Sydney), New South Wales.
Right-hand batsman; right-arm medium bowler
Test debut: December 26, 1985: 2nd Test, Australia v India, Melbourne.
The man sitting before me did not seem at all nervous for someone about to win his first Irish cap. It seemed odd. He fielded questions like an experienced pro, knocked a few to cover, and bowled a few observations that the Irish Cricket Union will do well to get the middle of the bat on in the next few years. Stephen Rodger Waugh has 103 Tests and 245 One Day International caps to his name so, on mature reflection, it is probably not all that surprising that he was sitting there relaxed, comfortable in gear fresh out of cellophane with logos proclaiming association with Independent Newspapers.
It will occasion a curious raising of the eyebrows to those outside the mainstream of the Irish scene that Waugh, vice-captain of Australia and arguably the best all-rounder in the game, is booked to play for us in six matches against Australia A, who are now cutting a swathe through Scotland.
That is not surprising as there are six Test players among their number and the rest are wannabes who will be doing their damndest to impress vice-captain Waugh so that they will come into contention for the tour following the autumn series in Pakistan. These will not be carnival atmosphere tour matches. The Irish players will benefit hugely from the experience but will know at the end of the ten days that the road to the top is paved with bumps and bruises. Nobody is expecting a re-enactment of the infamous bodyline series which virtually brought Australia and England to blows, but no player in his right mind will be having a beer or two before walking out. Injury during last year's Ashes series held up the quickly blossoming career of Jason Gillespie. With earring glistening in the sun and sporting a mini-beard in keeping with your average movie pirate, seeing one of him bearing down on you would be careless; seeing two of him would be downright foolhardy.
The script for this three-week series of Steve Waugh clinics throughout the land and the internationals was written by South African Dr Ali Bacher, one of the big shakers and movers of the world game, who persuaded Dr AJF O'Reilly, Chairman of Independent Newspapers, to sponsor his vision. Believing that Ireland had the human resources to aim for the stars, Bacher promised on a visit two years ago that he would get quality squads over here to promote the sport, and he is delivering: Australia A now; South Africa A next year.
It is all very exciting, but can Ireland become a power player? Why not ask Steve Waugh, even if he had only seen Belfast Airport and been on a whistle-stop tour for a few miles before resting at the Stakis Hotel, Templepatrick, yesterday No matter that he is jet-lagged and will have a much better idea about our world station when he waves goodbye in three weeks' time. He shows savvy, anyhow. We are spared the usual tourist preface about us being very friendly, etc. How does he see his role and Ireland's chances of making it big.
Have we the willpower to succeed? How could he know, yet? But he will soon know. Nobody, but nobody, on the world scene is more determined to succeed than Steve Waugh. For instance, in a 1990-91 Sheffield Shield series match (think of the battle for Sam Maguire) against Western Australia in Perth, Steve and twin brother Mark had put on 216 not out and 229 not out, respectively, for New South Wales when their captain Geoff Lawson declared at 601-4 Reliable reports from the dressing room noted that Mark was quite satisfied to be part of a fistful of world records, but that Steve's hair was on fire that they were not allowed to continue. Determined! I tell you; we have no ordinary tourist here. And you don't get 200 against the West Indies at Sabina Park, Kingston, without their quickies leaving calling cards all over you, each turning the colours of the rainbow, or shades thereof. No time to appreciate the scenes which inspired Harry Belafonte's lilting Island In the Sun when you are halting the West Indies' progress to Test victory.
Steve Waugh was selected as Wisden Cricketer of The Year in 1989 (the equivalent of FIFA Footballer of the Year), the same year when he confounded the critics who said he did not have as good a sense of humour as his twin. There was the little matter that he already had a bagful of Test caps and Mark had not yet begun his collection. However, let's leave aside such trivia.
Proof of his latent talent for humour was unveiled in the Test dressing room in Adelaide. The Aussie players had been spared the task of lugging their kit bags, etc, on and off the plane from Sydney. They simply had to turn up, put on the gear and sock it to the enemy. Off-spinner Tim May started to go about his business. He unzipped the bag and the door was off the hinges as his teammates made an exit. Steve Waugh, it is reliably reported, had stuffed fish heads into May's shoes. No ordinary joker here, my friends.
It used be said of Bill O'Reilly, the God-like post-war allrounder from Down Under that if you only had one man to get a winning run or wicket, or make a winning catch, he would be your man. A half-century later, most would agree that SR Waugh would be the man. We will all probably be in agreement by the end of the month.