Mark Waugh !
The most elegant, graceful cricketer I have had the honor of watching play.
His laidback nonchalantly charming strokeplay, combined with his stunning reflexes as a fielder, made it worthwhile to wake up 3AM to watch games on Channel 9 beamed from Australia.
Believe me watching Mark Waugh’s game was love at first sight!
A tribute – Sublime artistry inspired me to write this article !
Random reflections: Mark Waugh – the Peter Pan of modern batting heroes
“It is the mark of an instructed mind to rest easy with the degree of precision, which the nature of the subject permits, and not to seek exactness where only an approximation of the truth is possible.” – Aristotle, 384-322 BC.
Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’, composer Maurice Jarre’s ‘Laras Theme’ for ‘Dr.Zhivago’, John Williams’s ‘Love across the stars’ theme for ‘Star Wars’, and then there is Mark Waugh’s one hundred and ten runs, scored against New Zealand, at Chennai, India on the 11th of March 1996.
If the fictitious TIME MACHINE were to have jumped straight out of the timeless classic (going by the same title) written by H.G. Wells, and were to have been used by Aristotle to travel forth to his futuristic Chennai, India, circa March, 1996, and having done so, if Aristotle had witnessed the one day cricket game between Australia and New Zealand, at the M.A.Chinnaswamy Stadium, Chepauk, he would have probably patted himself in glee.
An artist by the name of Mark Waugh weaved a masterpiece on the green canvas, with the 22 yards of the cricket pitch serving as his centrestage, and by doing so, perhaps echoed the above words of Aristotle.
For someone like yours truly, whose interests in cricket were being slowly drubbed by the mindless slogs, slaughters, swishes and bludgeoning, that epitomised modern one day cricket batsmen, watching that innings live, rekindled that light, spirit, which in its minimalistic form, is often referred to as interest, love, and passion, not essentially in that order.
And Mark Waugh’s approach to batting, making it look so breathtakingly simple yet make it look equally attractive, was a classic example of minimalism of that art called batting, carrying with it a generous dose of aesthetics that should be seen to be believed.
The stage was set when New Zealand amassed 268 runs on a wicket which was playing true – during that innings, one Mr.Chris Harris played a knock of 125 plus, a feat which was to become the one lonely peak in his batting career.
The tall, younger twin of the other Waugh (whose batting style from Mark ‘Magician’ Waugh is as different as chalk is from cheese), walked in with a gait that was a cross between that of a Russian ballet dancer, and that of Clint Eastwood’s “The man with no name” from the Spaghetti Western movies, to open the innings with Mark Taylor.
Australia lost wickets at regular intervals, and in between, Shane Warne promoted up the order played a cameo, thumping a couple of sixers off the spinners.
To say that Mark Waugh at the other end, was holding fort would be inappropriate – inappropriate for the simple reason that ‘holding fort’ is a phrase often used to define the grit, tenacity, pugnacity of an Allan Border, a Steve Waugh or a Graham Thorpe, or their likes. Here, the younger Waugh might have as well been taking a stroll on the Marina Beach just a few kms away from the stadium!
With an almost inconspicuous batting presence at the other end, without the aura of a flamboyant, swashbuckling one day batsman, Mark Waugh was landing one stroke after another with the finesse of an artiste from Renaissance Europe.
One particular square cut (No, other batsmen play the square cut, when Mark plays it, it is a Square-kiss of the ball!) off Shane Thompson, dissected the gap between point and gully and perhaps it was because the shot making was so seductively charming, the fielders decided to watch the ball cross the boundary ropes, rather than chase it!
Such was the laid back nature of his innings that we were all witness to, that no one noticed Mark crossing his 50, and his reaching his hundred was applauded by a 40,000 plus capacity crowd with the muted ring of those hypnotised by a magician’s snap of the fingers!
Fewer people even applauded when Australia scored the winning run – for, that evening, as the stars shined down on Chepauk, a sublime artist conjured up an innings, the end of which brought sighs of yearning for more of that beauty, from a capacity Chennai crowd, which was perhaps what Adonis must have felt for Aphrodite! And as the crowd dissipated from the stadium, a pleasant evening breeze from the Marina settled in.
And yes, that night, we all slept peacefully, contentedly, with dreams of angels, mermaids and dancing auroras on the horizons!