Steve Waugh Foundation launched

KOLKATA, JUNE 1. Making his first visit to Kolkata after bidding adieu to cricket as one of Australia's most celebrated captains, Steve Waugh paid a visit to the object of his "lifetime commitment," Udayan — the home for the children of leprosy patients — on Tuesday.

The timing of the Aussie legend's revisit to Udayan, that inspired him into charity six years back, gave the 300 inmates of the home in suburban Barrackpore a big chance to celebrate the 39th birthday of their favourite benefactor a day in advance.

Having already contributed money, medicine and furniture in the past, it was textbooks and garments that Waugh brought for the wards of Udayan this time, along with promises of constructing a blind school in the city.

He formally declared the launch of the Steve Waugh Foundation in India and said that the school for the blind would be its first venture.

Getting back to cricketing issues, Waugh commended the ICC's cancellation of Australia's Test series in Zimbabwe. "The chaos in Zimbabwean cricket is a major issue and it's got to be sorted out," he said. "The ICC has done the right thing by cancelling the Test series.

When a side is picked on the basis of colour, there's something seriously wrong with the system and that has to be rectified. I am glad that the Test series was called off," Waugh observed.

He also had a word of praise for England batsman Nasser Hussain's decision to retire from international cricket. "He timed his retirement perfectly," said Waugh.

"He scored an unbeaten ton at Lords and won the Test for his side. Looking at that, I think it was a perfect way to finish."

Relating his own experience when he fought back from a trough with a century at Sydney against England a couple of years back, Waugh said, "Hussain got the century when many were saying he was struggling for his place in the side. He left on a high note and that's what all the cricketers want to do."

The Aussie also reiterated that the forthcoming India-Australia Test series would be a close one. "India is fast emerging as a world force while Australia has prepared very well in the last 12 to 18 months and had an excellent series in Sri Lanka. Ponting and his boys are keen to win and they are looking forward to the series," he said.

Waugh also reserved a word for the controversy over Muttiah Muralitharan's bowling action. "The ICC has already decided on what is appropriate. He cannot bowl the `doosra' but his off-spin has been deemed legal," he pointed out. Waugh went on to congratulate Muralitharan, saying, "he is a once-in-a-lifetime bowler.