| STEVE: Ashes may be the last stop
Colombo: Is Steve Waugh planning to call it a day' Has he given up all hope of playing in his fifth World Cup' Are family and other associations gaining more prominence in his personal life after over a decade of international cricket' Will the Ashes be his last hurrah'
Those were the questions that crossed oneís mind as he sat aloof and alone at the breakfast table at the Taj Samudra. No disturbance from autograph hunters, and no one invading his privacy.
The Australian Test skipper is here for the Test series versus Pakistan that follows the ICC Champions Trophy, but his mind is already focussed on the Ashes and beyond.
He may not admit it ó unless thereís a dramatic change in perspective ó but he has resigned himself to the fact that the 2003 World Cup is beyond him. The Ashes might just be his last stop.
ďI would say itís a possibility. But Iíll keep playing as long as I enjoy it and there will be other factors that are going to come in. I wouldnít decide to put an end to it, but play accordingly, decide on playing as best as I can in the next game and then look at the game after,Ē Steve said.
ďIím not going to say Iím going to end on a certain day because itís too far off for me in that regard. Iím 37 and not going to continue till Iím 47. Youíve got to start thinking about it.
ďI never dwell on such things, like I never thought as to when I would start playing for Australia. You play because youíre good enough to play. And if those things arenít in place then itís good enough to stop,Ē he explained.
But one thing is for certain. He is not going to let the selectors call the shots.
ďAny one would like to decide on his own fate. I would love to go on my own terms. I just want to play good cricket and enjoy it and Iím not going to force the decision on me. Iím hoping that everything will fall in place in the process,Ē Steve said.
Does this create any extra pressure' ďI donít see myself under any pressure. The other day I saw Nasser Hussain talking about it. It may be true for him, Sourav (Ganguly) or any other player, but not me. Itís a professional sport and you donít expect a free ride.Ē
He also focussed nostalgically on his career. ďI have done well over the past 10 years and had only one off season last year. I donít know too many players who have done so.
ďIím not looking too far ahead, concentrate on the Test series versus Pakistan. Itís something Iíve learnt over the past six to 12 months. Make sure you play well and not look too far ahead.Ē
A six-week pre-season stint with Kent in the county circuit has made him look fitter and much more focussed. The hunger to succeed remains intact. ďNothing has changed for the way we play Test cricket. Weíd love to win every Test. But weíre not going to win every Test as we saw the last time in England. Since we play to win, thereís going to be a result until rain interrupts.Ē
Steve prefers to keep a distance from the other members until the tournament ends. ďIíll stay a little bit aloof from the side until the Test matches begin.
Obviously, weíre going to meet up and cross each other but I would prefer to keep a little distance until the Tests start. I think thatís the fair thing to do since Ricky Ponting is the captain and has done well. Itís not right for me to hang in there and jump into their one-day campaign.
ďI have been in this sort of situation for six months. Iím here to play Test match cricket along with Mark and Justin Langer and concentrate on that. The Champions Trophy is still on and so I would like to give those guys a bit of breathing space. Itíll basically be getting to the nets and doing some hard work for us.Ē
But wonít it difficult for the players to adjust to two different captains within a span of few days'
ďI donít see any problem at all. Weíve done it before when I led the one-day side and Mark Taylor was in charge of the Test side. I get along very well with Ricky.Ē
He did not wish to say much on the controversies dogging Pakistan cricket. ďThe last few days have been some players pull out and some injured. Itís hard to keep a track on it. Iíve just heard that the manager is not there any more. Thereís obviously been some problem and itís unfair for me to say anything since Iím not aware of whatís happening behind the scenes.
ďThe first Test is obviously going to be important. With most of the seniors not around, there will be some junior guys out there and itís going to be even more difficult since we havenít seen most of them.
ďNot the ideal situation, but I donít think we need to change too much. We know a few of the Pakistan players and how they play. The conditions will probably be the decisive factor and thatís the reason Iím here. To get plenty of practice on these wickets and get used to the heat.Ē
Steve also had a word of encouragement for the Indians. ďThe Indians have shown good bench strength with some young guys coming around. Thereís plenty of talent around.
ďI thought the series versus England was a superb with some excellent batting, particularly from (Michael) Vaughan and (Marcus) Trescothick and (Rahul) Dravid, Sourav and Sachin (Tendulkar). Bowling-wise, I would have expected something better from both sides. The fourth Test was disappointing. Overall, I thought the standard was pretty good.Ē