An end to the Waughs?
By Barney Reid in Australia
How does one decide on the best time to advise someone in a high profile
position that he has got the sack?
In the case of Australian cricket captain (now former 'One Day' captain)
Steve Waugh, the decision to sack him appeared to have been sudden. The
announcement seemed to take all of us by surprise - including Waugh himself.
The timing of the announcement couldn't have come at a more unlikely
time - just a couple of hours before Australian cricket's gala Night of
Night's at the Melbourne Crown Casino, the occasion on which the Allan
Border medal for Australia's Player of the Year and other awards were to
be announced. Understandably Steve Waugh had a glum look throughout the
The executioner's axe was brought out with uncanny timing and stealth,
because Waugh's elimination was done in the midst of several minutes of
casual conversation between the captain and the chairman of the selection
board. Out of the blue: "Steve, we have decided to head in a different
direction now and you are not a part of it." A strange way of informing
a captain of his demise? Not as bad as the manner in which an Australian
state cricket captain was dethroned a few years ago. Unknown to him, a
press conference had been called at his home. A few minutes prior to the
arrival of the press, he was contacted by telephone and given the option
of telling the reporters either that he had resigned or that he had been
sacked. He announced resignation. In Steve Waugh's case the die was probably
cast many months ago. Waugh however did not read the signs until it was
He was dropped from the Selection Committee and therefore lost his authoritative
input into the composition of the team. The selectors would not have wanted
this captain's now substantial control over the selection process in both
formats of the game.
Waugh by now was not as prolific a run scorer as he had been in the
past. At 36, he was also getting more susceptible to niggling injuries.
To play whilst saddled with injury, despite medical advice to the contrary,
was probably Waugh's biggest downfall. The final straw to break the camel's
back was of course Australia's failure to qualify for the triangular finals
of the One Day Series played here at the beginning of this year. One would
think that the World Champions should have been a sure bet to play in the
final of a three cornered contest. The Aussies were confident - so confident
that instead of playing their best team whenever they took the field, they
rotated the players to give all members of the squad an opportunity. Why
this unusual philosophy? Their arrogance was so ingrained that they believed
that any team that Australia put out would be too good for the opposition,
especially New Zealand. By the time the Aussies came to their senses, it
was too late. They lost too many games to both New Zealand and South Africa
and missed the playoffs.
Australian spectators were not interested in paying to watch two foreign
teams battle it out for the biggest purse of the summer. They simply stayed
home. The poor attendance at the two final games between South Africa and
New Zealand resulted in the Australian Cricket Board losing close on one
and a half million dollars this year. When asked the reasons for the team's
poor showing at a press conference, Waugh made a bad error of judgment
by pointing out that he was not a member of the Selection Committee. Even
if it was true, it is not a smart career move for a manager to pass the
blame for a poor showing on to his board of directors by saying that they
had made errors in selection of the staff.
In a last ditch effort Waugh attempted to revive his one day stocks
by some good performances in the domestic competition. But it was too late
- the axe was already on its way down.
The Australian public was aghast. The most successful cricket captain
in the world dropped? Unbelievable!
My own view is that the decision is a good one. In fact, it should have
been made some months ago - because I do not believe that a team can go
from one World Cup to the next with the same contingent of players and
expect to be successful. The most important question that needs to be asked
in a debriefing after success at a World Cup is "What will we need to do
to win the next World Cup?" Back to back success with the same personnel,
the same techniques and the same strategies is not possible. Other competing
teams will have seen exactly what you did to achieve success, both live
and on innumerable video replays. They will not only attempt to match you
but will also try to better your efforts - as happened to Sri Lanka after
our 1996 success. In an article I penned some eighteen months after the
1996 World Cup, I suggested that Sri Lanka was in trouble in terms of her
preparation for the next World Cup. The campaign was flawed because we
failed to turn over a sufficient number of players to keep the rest of
the contingent interested. The only real alteration to the team was the
enforced change brought about when Gurusinha decided to migrate to Australia.
Maintaining the same standards and personnel over a period of three years
will have the same effect as moving backwards. With the Australians, complacency
took over and standards deteriorated. 1999's thirty-year-olds are now approaching
thirty-three. The unfit are developing even wider waistlines and the slow
are getting slower while the best youngsters are kept at home. Australia
has been falling into the same trap in which Sri Lanka found itself in
1999. There is certainly truth in the old adage "The best way to remain
number one is to train as if you are number two".
There has got to be constant updating of knowledge, but more importantly
there needs to be innovation and revolutionary ideas. Remember the Kaluwitharna-Jayasuriya
opening combination in 1996? By 1999 most other countries had copied our
tactic. The 1999 World Cup did not appear to have any stark revolutionary
ideas apart from the innovations brought about by Australian Coach John
Buchannan which took close-in fielding to a new level. Players need to
be kept on their toes to ensure that they always keep performing at their
peak. To know that new players are breathing down their necks will eradicate
complacency amongst those who consider themselves certainties to hold their
places. Young players will have more incentive to perform if they knew
they had a sniff of a chance to make the team.
Many of the reasons for the dropping of Steve Waugh as 'One Day' Captain
have been outlined above. However, the days of the Waugh leadership are
numbered. I will be surprised if Steve Waugh holds on as Test Captain till
the end of 2002. If Ponting does a reasonable job with the 'One Day' team,
he will be entrusted with the reins as Test Captain as well before too
long. This somewhat late rejuvenation phase for Australian cricket has
begun. Heads will roll before the end of the South African tour. Unfortunately
the other Waugh twin Mark may well find himself on the same flight back
home with Steve prior to the commencement of the 'One Day' Series.
Netball coaching camps in Jaffna
A seven-member team of the country's top netball administrators and sponsors
are now in Jaffna conducting training workshops and umpire testing at the
Led by President of the Federation, Trixie Nanayakkara - the team will
spend three days in the peninsula conducting training for trainers workshops
and talent search among the best club players in Jaffna.
The Jaffna training sessions and umpire testing is organized by Saroja
Shivachandran, President of the Jaffna Netball Association. Around 60 umpires
will be tested in two days of sessions while 20 coaches will receive training
on new teaching methods, individual training etc.
"This is the first time in Jaffna that we are holding umpire testing
for netball," said Trixie Nanayakkara. "We can see a lot of talent in Jaffna,"
she said at a press conference at the Ministry of Rehabilitation, Resettlement
and Refugees, which is assisting the Federation in their efforts. "Further,
sports is the best way to overcome ethnic differences and keep young people
on the correct path."
The Federation also hopes to conduct programmes in Mannar, Kilinochchi
and Mulaitivu as well.
"I am happy to see a team of women officials bravely volunteer to go
into these socalled uncleared areas to seek out sports talent," said Dr.
Jayalath Jayawardena, Minister for Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Refugees.
"This is a very encouraging sign for the entire peace process."
Ceylinco Consolidated has come forward as sponsors for the event and
will bear the financial cost of air travel and logistics in Jaffna.