When Mark Waugh made his debut and began a classy legacy for the world to admire
Mark Waugh: Long before Steven Smith caught the imagination of the world with his breathtaking batting, way before Marnus Labuschagne suddenly appeared out of nowhere and started making hundreds for fun, and even before David Warner made headlines for entering the triple hundred club in Test cricket, there was Mark Waugh.
There was elegance and there was a sense of style in there as well with Mark Waugh.
Class oozed every cricketing stroke that Mark Waugh etched with quintessential ease and finesse.
And he made his debut on this very date albeit way back in time, in 1991, to be precise.
Those were the years where cricket hadn’t yet tilted as close to the batsmen as it is today.
That was a time where it took eternity for the ball to reach the long boundary ropes of a typical Australian ground with the striking images of dozens of pigeons flying mid air over the fence dictated memorable camera shots.
It was amid these times that one of New South Wales’s most famous and fabulous exports to the world of Australian Cricket made his debut.
And boy, what a debut it was; Mark Waugh couldn’t have possibly chosen a better time in which to hit a first Test century than the peak of the Ashes contest of 1991.
And he did it with utmost confidence and style at the Adelaide Test that began this very date exactly thirty two years ago in time.
On a batting friendly surface that still offered some carry and bounce to the bowlers, Mark Waugh chipped in even when biggies in that famous Aussie line-up didn’t; the very inning in which the right hander struck his famous century, Dean Jones got out for naught.
Waugh’s 138 was a brisk and effective knock that it came off just 188 deliveries and featured 18 hits to the fence.
Waugh’s century, the only hit by an Australian in that Adelaide Test helped the hosts to a position of early advantage in the contest. It helped the Aussies reach a formidable first inning total of 386.
And Waugh truly left his ‘Mark’ in the hearts of the onlookers and perhaps even his opponents by displaying a brand of cricket that featured crisply timed strokes of the backfoot with the element of minimal risk involved in that he never seemed flustered or hit airy shots off the ground.
Spell after spell, over after over, the trinity of Philip DeFreitas, a very young Angus Fraser and famous spinner Phil Tufnell rammed in but couldn’t beat Mark Waugh’s defences.
His 138 was the first of many centuries to come.
As a matter of fact, the “junior” Waugh, as he was often referred to, would go on to strike nineteen more donning the proud baggy green cap with a highest score of 153 coming miles away from the balmy comfort of playing on Aussie turfs; Mark Waugh’s best effort came on a turning sub continental wicket of India.
As a cricketer, Waugh was a near perfect blend of charisma and courage. He’d take on some of the most mortally dangerous bowlers of their generation- think Akram, Waqar, Donald, Pollock and Ambrose with this ephemeral ease.
Anything bowled short to him would he cut away elegantly. There was a joy in seeing Waugh sweetly timing away the world’s best to the fence as they rushed in with much hostility.
Even when he danced down the track, as he did on several occasions to India’s Venkatapathy Raju for instance, during his stunning 153, Waugh never batted with angst or anxiety.
Despite the economy of effort and relative ease, Mark Waugh batted with power, though no rage.
It almost seemed that Waugh’s batting carried a whiff of magnetic charm that appealed to the poets, the romanticists and the whiskey lovers; not the mean or brute lot that revelled in temper or turned crude acts in life.
He was a thorough gent for the better part of his career not some dude who engaged in verbatim or charade to prove a point.
In that aspect, one would argue, the likes of Mark Waugh, Andy Bichel and Adam Gilchrist were very un-Aussie like; gentle, straightforward and often polite not harsh, brittle or temperamental.
On Mark Waugh’s watch, the Australian top order seemed a safe place. He was the giver of quickfire starts, the magnifier of hope that the Australian dominance over an opponent – which was often the case in the late nineties until 2007- would last until the end.
But all of that said, credit must be directed where it’s due. Waugh wasn’t only a fine batsman; he was a scintillating fielder in the slips whose knack of being forever alert enabled the Australians to inflict great damage to their opposition.
You could pick just about any scorecard in a Test during the days of their famous nineties and the dominant 2000’s, and some or the other dismissal would read- caught M.Waugh, bowled Warne.
Such was their supreme camaraderie!
Alas, the world lost Warnie much too early. But his good friend and the sublimely gifted, the more talented of the Waugh brothers is well with us.
And for as long as he is there, he ought to be celebrated.
Mark Waugh ended his Test career with a touch over 8,000 runs, a testimony to his consistent scoring. Though, what’s up for a healthy argument is whether the Test batting average of 41 could’ve been a notch higher?