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Bye baggy green, hello Rosie
- Waugh announces retirement, renews commitment to Udayan

Sydney, Nov. 26: International cricket may lose Steve Waugh, India will not.

The Australian Test captain today announced retirement at the end of the current series at home against India, but said his relationship with the country against which he made his debut, too, at Melbourne in 1985 will continue beyond.

Waugh said he planned to carry on working with the charity Calcutta Foundation, which runs a home — Udayan — for children of leprosy patients, and would raise funds for another.

“I know that whatever field I turn to, I will give it 100 per cent,” he said.

Little Rosie will not mind Waugh’s abiding Indian interest, it seems, though she is the one who thought it was time for dad to hang his Australian green baggy cap up on a nail.

At breakfast last week, Rosie looked at her father and said: “I don’t want you to go away anymore.”

Rosie will know if he does go away, it will be only to Udayan, which, like her, is hoping Waugh will now have more time for it.

“Udayan is my pursuit for life,” he had said on a visit in September. Shamlu Dudeja, of Calcutta Foundation, said: Steve wants to build another shelter (Ashray) for 200 girls. I hope to speak to him tomorrow about the plan.”

“I’m sure he’ll have more time to spend here, post-retirement,” said Rev. James Stevens, of Udayan.

Although he did not specifically mention that it was seven-year-old Rosie who forced the decision, the most-capped player in Tests (164) has advanced his retirement, sacrificing the opportunity to achieve one unfulfilled wish: conquer India in India.

He had initially planned to step down after next September’s tour of India, but now it will be the last Test of the current series at home ground Sydney, starting January 2, where Waugh will bow out — if it is possible for this most stubborn of cricketers to bend — at the age of 38.

“It’s been in the back of my mind for a little while now but Sydney’s a great place to finish,” Waugh said.

“My present form and fitness suggests I could play on, however all good things must come to an end.”

That should be read as a dire warning by Sourav Ganguly’s team, which can expect the regular Waugh the Warrior to put on a coat or two more of war paint in his last Test appearances. Indian vice-captain Rahul Dravid, however, believes Waugh will play as only Waugh does. “Whether it is his first or last Test he would not have played any differently,” Dravid, a confessed admirer, said.

There’s also the possibility that after Allan Border overtook Sunil Gavaskar’s number of Test runs, another Indian record will fall to Australian hands.

Already the second highest run-scorer after Border, Waugh is only two Test hundreds away from Gavaskar’s 34. Two centuries in four Tests to catch up with Gavaskar against an Indian attack not known for running through opposition is not too much to expect from someone who scores at an average of over 51 runs per match.

His recent form suggests that the feat is very much within the realm of possibility. Waugh’s career seemed to be on the rocks after a barren run last year, but he defied critics with a stunning century in the final Ashes Test against England (in Sydney) in January, hitting a boundary off the final ball of the day to reach his hundred.

That innings seemed to revitalise Waugh who has scored another four centuries since.

“I’ll never forget what happened in Sydney, no one will ever take that away,” he said.

“There was a temptation to finish up then but it wasn’t about that one good moment. I wanted to go when I was playing well and playing consistently.

“I feel I’m playing consistently and I’m in good form now and I wanted to go when there was still some fire in the belly.”

This “fire” turned him into the most successful captain in Test history, as he converted a struggling Australian team into arguably the best the world has ever seen after taking charge in 1999.

“I think he set great examples in the way cricket should be played and in tough conditions he would produce some tremendous performances,” said Sachin Tendulkar.

Waugh admits retiring for someone so competitive will be hard. With one shoulder raised a tad more than the other, Waugh brought to the field a quiet, understated confidence.

To satisfy his thirst for competition, Waugh joked he would take on his four-year-old son Austin in a game of backyard cricket.

And the applause will not die. Rosie and Lily, who is only two, and wife Lynette will be around to give him a hand.

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