He can still do it, can't he. He can still induce that vivid chill that blows back in from the early years of the century, when the things that Steve Waugh said came true (and some of the things he didn't say came true as well - 'you just dropped the world cup, son' being a case in point).
It wasn't just what he said but the way he said it, which was bluntly through thin lips, the baggy green pulled down almost to the top of his eyeline. Those eyes too, almost closed in a permanent squint, brought on, it seemed, by batting for so long on bone-white pitches from which the sun glared back at him.
Waugh is an indistinct presence in the game now, not in the media, not a coach, instead working on a couple of committees and keeping the kind of profile that preserves his mystique. He speaks rarely, so when he does, it retains impact.
'England aren't as good as they think they are,' he said at the New South Wales end of season awards, and if there's an England cricket fan that didn't feel that gentle tremor of truth to those nine words as they travelled halfway across the world, then they have probably come recently to the game.
It's a perfect piece of Steve Waugh theatre, brilliant in its understatement. It's no blithe McGrath prediction, not a lengthy piece of pre-series hype. Instead it's subtly undermining, it's suggestive, and it's also realistic. If there is a sensitive point to touch for England at the moment, then this is it. They bristle at any accusation of hubris.
Steve Waugh has not lost his sense of the fine margins that dictate the course of the game at the highest level. A stone-hard realist like him will understand why England are heavy favourites, and why they will most likely win. But he also understands what it takes to construct the psychology of a team, of how a myth is built up around it and how that myth can be reduced in the minds of those that must confront it.
They're a small thing, those nine words, but they're a start, as SR Waugh well knows.
India vs England Test Series: India Report Card
2 months ago