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Carrying a commitment forward

Calcutta: But for his failure to conquer the ‘Last Frontier’ — actually, win the 2000-2001 Test series in India — Steve Waugh has probably achieved everything he set out to.

With 10,265 Test runs (average 49-plus), Steve is No.2 on the all-time list. Then, with 30 Test centuries, he is No.3 there. Moreover, just one three-figure knock separates him from our very own Sachin Tendulkar.

In any case, with 160 Test appearances, Steve remains the most capped cricketer. He would have loved to feature in the captains’ line-up at the World Cup, this year, but that script couldn’t be changed.

It was beyond even him.

Australia did retain the World Cup, yet few forgot that back in 1999, when Steve lifted cricket’s most prized trophy, the cheers at Udayan (home for the children of leprosy sufferers) were as loud as the roar in Sydney.

With good reasons too: From 1998, after all, Australia’s Test captain has cared for Udayan in a manner without precedent. Raising funds for a girls’ wing (Nivedita House) to sponsoring polio-afflicted Lakhi Kumari to pitching in for the proposed exclusive all-girls’ facility outside Udayan, he couldn’t have done more.

Significantly, Steve was recently conferred the Order of Australia. No disrespect to the bestowing authorities, but the legend deserves a higher recognition.

Late Tuesday, then, when helanded in Calcutta (accompanied by wife Lynette and manager Robert Joske) for his fourth Udayan-related visit, he carried an extraordinary commitment one step further.

For the shy Lynette, of course, it’s a first. “Over the years, I’d heard so much. Now, I’ll be able to see everything in person. I’m happy being here,” she remarked, moments after entering the arrival hall at the airport.

As for Steve, speaking exclusively, he said: “It’s always nice to renew my ties with Udayan…” Then, laughing, he added: “But for having put on some weight, I’m fine… I suppose I’ve been relaxing a bit…”

With the Bangladesh series a shade over a fortnight away only, he will soon be back in business.

Steve’s Udayan-involvement, by the way, began after an interview of his was published in The Telegraph during the 1997-1998 tour of India. Incidentally, brother Mark also sponsors a girl — Aloka.

Predictably, Steve’s schedule (drawn up by the Calcutta Foundation’s Shamlu Dudeja) is pretty packed.

While a trip to Udayan is the top priority, Wednesday, the Waughs may also visit the leper colony in Titagarh. Much, though, will depend on the weather.

Once back at the Taj, Steve will busy himself with the proposed facility. One understands talks with a Nepalgunj-based institution are at an “advanced stage” and, so, an ‘agreement’ could be inked during his presence.

Largely owing to space constraints, it cannot be located at Udayan.

Assuming that the facility is finalised Wednesday itself, Thursday may not be that hectic. Steve, however, will inaugurate Kangaroo Kids.

Labelled as an “early learning centre,” there’s an Australian touch to the curriculum and teaching methods, besides the Kangaroo bit.

The Waughs are scheduled to leave for Chennai Thursday evening.

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