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Steve a champion: Sourav

Calcutta, July 5: Just the other day, Steve Waugh had kind words for Sourav Ganguly. Today, the latter reciprocated by defending Australia’s Test captain in the most emphatic manner.

“It’s unfortunate that people keep putting Steve down. In my opinion, he remains a champion and has been doing enough to keep his place in the XI,” Sourav told The Telegraph.

While Steve has been reminding the world that he will continue as long as the “enjoyment” is there, the Jeff Thomsons and the David Hookes have been asking him to quit.

For the statistically inclined, nobody has played more Tests (160) than Steve. Then, with 10,265 runs and 30 centuries he is second only to Allan Border in the first category and third — behind Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar — in the Test centurions’ club.

Interacting briefly, the Team India captain added: “In fact, I’ve been looking up to Steve more for his qualities as a player than captain. Given the talent-level of his team, after all, it’s not difficult to… However, only somebody special can consistently bat the way he does. Thanks to Steve, I’ve learnt never to give up.”

While Steve himself isn’t sure of the legacy he will be leaving once he does retire, Sourav has no doubts what that will be.

“Of course, Bobby Simpson and Mark Taylor have had a role, but it’s really Steve who has made Australia into such awesome world-beaters… Many years on, he will still be saluted for taking Australia to such exceptional heights. That surely will be his legacy,” he opined.

[Speaking exclusively during his two-day trip here, this week, Steve had praised Sourav thus: “His captaincy has direction and he enjoys his team’s respect… Under Sourav, the boys haven’t been backing down and they seem to enjoy a fight… Earlier, most Indian sides would fall apart under pressure — not this one.”]

It’s for good reasons, then, that the Team India captain draws inspiration from Steve. Moreover, he acknowledged that the legend’s off-the-pitch conduct had enhanced his stature even more.

“It’s amazing that Steve keeps making long-haul trips to stay in touch with Udayan… Indeed, I would request all those in a position to help, to do so. In any case, their number is small,” Sourav, who himself quietly supports quite a few NGOs, pointed out.

Meanwhile, Steve has appealed to India’s corporate sector for help in expanding his charity work specific to the daughters of leprosy sufferers.

“I’m confident there are people (from industry) waiting to put up their hands… If you ask me, there’s no point having millions in the bank if that money isn’t going to be utilised for improving the lives of the less privileged,” he emphasised in a message from Chennai, on the eve of his return to Australia.

Not that Steve needed to, but he did add: “My own involvement (with Udayan and more) is long term and I intend giving as much time as I possibly can. Once I’m through with cricket, my work in Calcutta will be high on my list of priorities.”

Many will raise a toast to that.

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