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Through the eyes of `Tugga'

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NANDITA SRIDHAR

His writing screams of passion — for cricket, Australia, his family and Udayan.

Out of My Comfort Zone: The Autobiography, Steve Waugh, Viking/ Penguin, 2005, hardback, p.736, Rs. 895. "MY last shot as an Australian batsman was a mistimed slog-sweep off Kumble that Tendulkar calmly accepted close to the boundary rope at deep square leg." You read, and exhale, maybe even stretch out to wave a red rag or simply let it all sink in. It's not everyday that you devour the autobiography of a man who could have batted with a stump and bowled with a finger, simply because he willed himself to. A man whose facial features moved as frequently as his failures during a crisis and a man from Sydney for whom charity began in Kolkata.Anyone picking up Steve Waugh's autobiography will hope the book plays surgeon, slicing into his mind, expecting to find a computer, a well-oiled machine or maybe even an ice block. What you actually find is a cricketer who wears the baggy-green like a crown, a passionate Aussie for whom the English will always be the Poms, a family man unabashedly acknowledging the influence of his better-half Lynette, a batsman who battled self-doubts, struggling to crack his first Test hundred, only to transform later into a monk with a cricket bat, a brother whose affection for Mark co-existed with intense competition and the need to be seen as an independent human being and a charitable man whose quest for getting out of his comfort zone resulted in Udayan's girls' wing. Most importantly, Steve Waugh is no bunny with the pen, and can write as well as he can play crisis man.The book won't disappoint anyone. No man typifies moving out of the comfort zone more than Steve Waugh, be it out of the comfort of his natural game or his hotel room. The foreword by Rahul Dravid is apt, as "The Wall" has played Waugh in many a stage. Every eventful incident finds a place. Right from his childhood, his first Test to his last. Important innings, victories, the match-fixing scandal, his unforgettable meeting with Mother Teresa, Udayan, spats with Sourav Ganguly (His view on Ganguly influencing groundsmen as being similar to a crime as heinous as match-fixing shows bias and is not fair on Ganguly), goose bump moments like the 1999 World Cup semi-final tie against South Africa and the red-hanky waving final Test moments, it is all there and more.

Not just guts and glory

But the book is not all guts, glory and grit. Humour and wit make quite a few appearances. "There's nothing like meeting the girl of your dreams — and her parents — for the first time. In retrospect, both experiences were a bit like facing Curtly Ambrose without a helmet — you couldn't afford to make a mistake because you wouldn't get a second chance," is one such example.Of course, there are portions in the book which go down on its knees begging to be edited. In his eagerness to share every facet of his life, he has written too much. Certain anecdotes and matches could have been given the scissor treatment, for greater impact and a smoother read. Notwithstanding the length, Steve Waugh has opened trap doors, back doors and windows into a great mind. His writing screams of passion — for cricket, Australia, his family and Udayan. The self-doubts that plagued him earlier comfort you that the man is human and was prone to panic; it gives us a glimmer of hope that if he can transform, so can we. The book inspires.

Moment of inspiration

But for those hoping for a lot of Mark, except for the childhood moments, the match-fixing allegations and a few other mentions, his presence is not too frequent. "Conversation between Mark and me were never a priority growing up — our lack of communication stemmed partly from always having a sense of knowing what the other was feeling and thinking, but primarily from immaturity and a lack of depth in our relationship. I really believe that being so competitive and unable to be seen as individuals drove a wedge between us that took years to remove."Probably the most significant line of the book appears at the time when he went through intense training after being dropped from the team to make way for Mark Waugh. "I wanted to reach a different level of mental toughness from everyone else. And as is the case in all big things we try to achieve in life, my success or failure in this quest came down to one word: attitude". The rest, as they say, is history. In that one surreal moment of inspiration, Stephen Rodger Waugh had arrived.


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