Waugh, Tendulkar named Bradman Foundation Honourees
The previous occasion on which Stephen Waugh and Sachin Tendulkar shared the spotlight on the Sydney Cricket Ground’s verdant centre stage just over a decade ago, they were experiencing wildly divergent emotions.
Waugh, in his 168th and final Test appearance of a career in which he achieved pretty much everything, had just been dismissed in his ultimate innings that was poetically fashioned against the odds as he fought to lift his team to one more improbable win.
For the first time under his hugely successful captaincy, Australia had conceded more than 700 runs to an opposition largely because Tendulkar had peeled off a resolutely flawless and ultimately unbeaten 241.
Remarkably, the Indian maestro was himself under some pressure having not scored a Test century in more than a year and called upon his steely mental strength as well as his unsurpassed batting skills to ensure Waugh’s finale was also remembered as the first of his many encores.
Tendulkar celebrates a milestone during his epic 241 not out in Steve Waugh’s final Test at the SCG in 2004
And when, as the cricket romantics will tell you it had to be, Waugh’s resistance and his time as an international cricketer ended with a skied catch in Tendulkar’s hands, the Little Master ran to his foe, who was also his friend, to add a poignant underscore to the acclaim the Australian was being afforded by his adoring home crowd.
“I was just sharing a talk with him about his last Test match played here, and I still remember that I was the one who took his catch at deep square leg,” Tendulkar recalled as Waugh winced slightly, ahead of the pair being honoured at a gala dinner at the SCG where they were jointly named as 2014 Bradman Foundation Honourees.
“I ran across to congratulate him for a successful career and also to wish him and Australia the best for the future.
“I really enjoyed playing against him.
“Steve was a true champion, we knew that we had to get him out because while he was at the wicket we were in trouble.
“I have high regards for Steve and his ability to play in difficult situations, to be competitive and to play in the right spirit.”
Waugh, who like Tendulkar has remained largely arm’s length from the game since his retirement, returned the compliment although conceded his memories of his final Test contained the occasional painful flashback of the game’s greatest runs-scorer delivering a Master Class of more than 10 hours.
Amid fears that if not for Tendulkar’s own unyielding self-discipline, he might have scored even more heavily.
“I had forgotten about that,” Waugh shot back when reminded during a question and answer session ahead of the gala dinner that India had rattled up 7(dec)-705 in the opening days of his farewell Test.
“I’d erased it from the memory – I knew it was 700 and something.
“To Sachin’s great credit he promised a few times leading up to that Test he wasn’t going to play a cover drive because he’d been out a few times playing the shot.
“We felt at some stage he’d have to weaken, he’d have to give in to it but 241 runs later he hadn’t played a cover drive.
“Maybe he was just looking after us.
“If he had played a cover drive he might have been 400 not out.”
While Waugh remains one of Australia’s most revered recent cricketers, he acknowledged that to be included among the game’s legendary names honoured by the Bradman Foundation was an accolade that left him humbled as well as deeply appreciative.
And brought him and his family along to their first cricket function in many years.
“To be associated in any way with Sir Donald Bradman’s name is a great honour, and particularly this night – with Sachin, probably the modern-day Bradman – it doesn’t get any better than that,” Waugh said.
Tendulkar, who Bradman once famously recounted was the contemporary cricketer who most reminded him of himself when batting, also spoke with reverence about being invited to meet the game’s most eulogised player on the day he turned 90 in 1998.
At the time, Tendulkar was ensconced in a player camp and needed special permission from the Board of Control for Cricket in India to travel to Adelaide and attend a personal audience with Bradman, in the company of another larger-than-life Australian player in Shane Warne.
“I remember that Warney was with me in the car and we were discussing who was going to ask the first question and I said ‘you are from Australia, you should start’,” Tendulkar recalled of the nervous moments leading up to his meeting with the game’s greatest batsman.
“And he said ‘no, you are a batsman so you can relate to him much better than I can’.
“But the whole experience was wonderful.
“One thing was that you got to meet the great man, but you also saw the funnier side of him.
“I asked him a question ‘what would you have averaged in today’s cricket?’ and he thought about and then said ‘maybe 70’.
“My natural reaction was ‘why only 70 and not 99’ (citing Bradman’s unrivalled Test average of 99.94) and he said ‘come on, that’s not bad for a 90-year-old man’.
“To get to see that side of him was really special and I’ll always really cherish those memories.”
Story and photos courtesy of Cricket Australia.