Sydney: Australian newspapers hailed outgoing Test captain Steve Waugh the equal of national icon Don Bradman on Thursday and praised him for retiring at the top, rather than being forced out by poor form.
“Waugh’s perfect innings” declared The Australian, amid blanket coverage which saw the flinty captain appear on the front page of every major newspaper in the country.
The Sydney Morning Herald said he was a “great leader among legends”, while the Daily Telegraph went one step further in its 11-page coverage and said Waugh was as good as Bradman.
Such a claim was previously unthinkable in a country where Bradman is regularly cited as the greatest ever Australian.
“In the fiercely more demanding cricket world he has faced trials and ordeals Bradman never knew,” wrote a Telegraph columnist, noting that Waugh would be the first to wince at the comparison.
The newspapers reproduced a deluge of statistics to back up Waugh’s case for greatness — including most capped player in cricket history, second highest run scorer on 10,660 and 40 wins from 53 Tests as Australian captain.
But the pundits said it was the fighting qualities and clinical leadership of the player dubbed “the iceman” that lifted him into the Cricketing pantheon.
The Australian said Waugh, along with his predecessors Allan Border and Mark Taylor, had lifted Australian cricket from doldrums to its current position of unchallenged world dominance.
Waugh was credited with restoring pride in the “baggy green”, and praised for his reverence towards cricket’s traditions.
Melbourne’s Age said Waugh had wisely decided against a final fight with selectors to end his career on his own terms with a high at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Columnists also said it was fitting that Waugh’s final opponent would be India, the country against which he made his Test debut in 1985. (AFP)