| Steve Waugh at a training session in Perth Thursday
Perth: Steve Waugh is poised to join Allan Border as Australia’s most successful Test captain if his team can win the third Ashes Test.
Waugh has led Australia to 31 Test wins since replacing Mark Taylor as skipper in 1999 and needs just one more to match Border’s record of 32. With three Ashes Tests to go and Australia already 2-0 up, it seems likely Waugh will pass Border during this series and move into outright second on the all-time list behind West Indian Clive Lloyd’s world record of 36.
Incredibly, Waugh has achieved his 31 from just 42 matches while Border, who took over at a time when Australia were struggling, needed 93 matches for his 32. Even Lloyd, also at the helm of a great team, needed 74 games.
Waugh’s winning strike rate of 73.81 per cent is easily the highest by any captain who has been in charge for at least 20 Tests with the late Don Bradman’s success rate of 62.50 the second best.
Despite all his success, Waugh said he still hadn’t grown tired of winning and never took victory for granted. “When you lose one like we did a couple of times in India you realise it’s a special thing to win a Test match and you shouldn’t take it for granted,” Waugh said.
“It doesn’t come just by chance. We work hard, I think we’re the fittest side going round, I think we’re the most disciplined and I think we train the best. It doesn’t happen overnight by accident and if we slacken off in any of those facets of our game then we’ll fall back to the field pretty quickly.”
Waugh’s current team is also already being compared to the greatest the game has seen with Keith Miller, a member of Bradman’s 1948 Invincibles, recently declaring them as the finest of all time.
There are no obvious weaknesses in Waugh’s team and the side includes a handful of players who will be remembered among the greats of the game including Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and, of course, Waugh himself.
Importantly, under Waugh they have scored their runs quickly to take the weather out of the equation, always bowl and field aggressively and are prepared to take risks.
Waugh, now 37 and in the twilight of his career, was a late starter as captain but said he was now comfortable in the job. “When you first take over the captaincy you’re keen to please everyone else and you forget about what you really want so you’ve got to put your own stamp on how you want to play their game and influence the side in that direction,” Waugh said.
“I think I’ve learnt a lot and I’m pretty relaxed about it now. There was a period when we had to really work hard to form a side to what it is now but now it’s almost on automatic pilot.
“It takes a bit of refining, a word here and there, but basically we’ve done the ground work and now it tends to be quite a bit easier than say a couple of years ago.
“We’ve been together for such a long time now and we’re so consistent in the selection that everyone knows each other really well and they know how I operate in the field and little signals that I make they pick up pretty quickly.”