Mark Waugh was a medley of infinite grace and glorious talent. He was also the purveyor of the image of a preternaturally disinterested cricketer. Whether gently dispatching clueless bowlers to all corners of the ground, or miraculously catching disbelieving batsmen out of the game, he lent a curious impression of having found himself in the thick of action by a pure dint of accident. A marvelous natural, Mark Waugh in exelcis bestowed upon cricket, a sense of rare rapture. This brilliant cricketer devised his own degree of exertion and that degree could safely be defined as – ‘only as much as is absolutely essential and nothing more.’ ‘Markonomics’, in short. This minimalist threshold, fundamental in its conception, beautiful in its execution and breathtaking in its outcome makes this Australian, the George Orwell of cricket. Although equally renowned for his magnificent exploits as a world class all-round fielder, it was his supreme batting that endeared and consequently, resulted in him being one of my all-time favorite cricketers.
In Orwell’s own words, ‘if it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out’. Mark Waugh’s cricket lived and breathed this Orwellian philosophy to its very last detail. ‘Economy’ could have given ‘elegance’ a true run for its money in vying for the middle name of Waugh Junior. An economy, that at times could mistakenly be considered by many (as a matter of fact still considered by many) to be a synonym for the lackadaisical. Yet, it was this very economy in effort that made every action of Mark Waugh on a cricket field look balletic. Mark Waugh always cut a shot out where it was possible to do so. Not for him the esoteric. Shot ‘manufacturing’ was a sacrilege. When it was possible to send the ball caressing through the cordon at cover with a stunning co-ordination of lithe limbs, lazy wrists and lambent elegance, there was no conceivable need to employ laborious ingenuity to contrive a substitute shot making technique to produce similar results (here I am deliberately choosing to ignore the ungainly aberration of a reverse sweep which Waugh tried in vain to play against Phil Tuffnell, and failed miserably – on the precise ground of such an act being an aberration). But for those occasions, where he felt a need to utilize his nimble footwork against the cunning wares of a slow bowler, Mark Waugh waited with an infinite degree of patience for the ball to come to him so that he could lend it the requisite direction. Why come down the track like an inelegant woodcutter when you have the pristine choice of leaning into a stroke with regal élan and following through with panache!
Right from his batting stance, everything about Markonomics was an epitome of aesthetics. The back lift was neither extravagant nor exaggerated. With both feet closely placed, there was no room for the ‘splayed legs’ version at the crease. An absence of a pronounced crouch meant that he stood straight, still and tall waiting for the bowler to commence his run. Spotting the length of the delivery to perfection, Mark Waugh eased into delectable stroke making mould. Exquisitely timing the ball, Waugh unleashed his entire repertoire of stroke making to blissful effect. Divine flicks, classy cuts, effortless drives and phenomenal pulls competed with each other to contrive a dazzling exhibition of masterly batting that left the purists singing his peans. Spin and seam were both handled with an impartial aplomb. Placement substituted power while caresses obliterated the indignity of cross batted heaves and across the line hoicks. Pounding away to cow corner was a taboo in the syllabus of Macronomics. The art of shot making was taken to a different pedestal altogether by this wonderful batsman.
The singularly striking beauty of Macronomics lay in the complete abhorring of a frigid calculus of ‘crease occupation’. Painstaking and guarded accumulation of runs was never a fixation for this class act. For, if such was to be an indispensable ambition, Mark Waugh’s career would not have stopped at 20 centuries and 8000-odd runs. But then again, compromising Macronomics would have meant that this stylish right hander was no longer Mark Waugh. He played cricket in precisely in the same fashion in which it ought to have been played – with enjoyment and exhilaration. He was neither invincible not infallible. He was not an unusual exception to the law of averages; he was not vulnerable to a sudden bout of loss in form. One of his nicknames “Audi” bears ample testament to this fact. A string of ducks resulted in Mark Waugh being named after an iconic symbol characterized by four rings.
He was not the greatest batsman of all by any stretch of imagination, but he was the undisputed master class of stroke making. He murdered bowling attacks with a grace rarely seen before, and definitely never witnessed since. He was possessed of an unassuming talent which was at the same time beautiful and bewildering. Moe than anything else he gave every bit and more to cricket what cricket had privileged him. He entertained the whole cricketing world. He did this by just being Mark Waugh.
For the uninitiated in Markonomics (of which there can be very few), the middle name of Mark Waugh is Edward.