By Scott Heinrich
LEADER OF MEN
Runs: 10,927; Ave: 51.06
100s: 32; 50s: 50
Tests as captain: 57
Won: 41; Drew: 7; Lost: 9
Runs: 3,714: Ave: 52.3
Sachin Tendulkar said it all at the presentation ceremony after the Sydney Test, the 168th and final of Steve Waugh's career.
Tendulkar, perhaps the greatest batsman of the modern era, said Waugh had been an inspiration to "all us youngsters".
Now, Waugh's phenomenal career is over, precisely 18 years and 11 days after it began.
He left it fighting hard to save a Test series, just as he had fought hard to keep his place in the team after an uninspiring beginning all those years ago.
Waugh is the final link between the old and the new, the way cricket used to be played and the way it is now.
His singular contribution to the game sees him retire as the second-highest Test run scorer, the second-greatest century-maker and the most successful captain.
"That's the exact reason I'm going. I can't imagine it can get any better than this," Waugh said.
These are records he will take with him into retirement, but what has he left behind for the team he has fashioned into arguably the greatest of all time?
It is without question that Waugh the batsman has been a marvellous servant, mixing true grit and natural ability in equal measures in some memorable innings.
But it is Waugh's contribution as a captain that has seen him take the next step as an immortal of the game.
He served as a player under Allan Border and Mark Taylor before taking over in March 1999.
Whereas Taylor was handed the captaincy after Border because he was the best captain, Waugh became skipper because he was the best player.
He borrowed from both predecessors, displaying the ruthlessness of Border but adding positivity, the thoughtfulness of Taylor but with a killer instinct.
In many ways, Waugh captained as he played: unyieldingly aggressive, determined and with a never-say-die attitude.
Waugh was without doubt lucky to take over a side that was already at the top of the tree. Some have churlishly said anybody could have captained Waugh's Australia to victory.
But to Waugh's ultimate credit, he positioned his pawns to perfection and actually succeeded in making Australia better.
His brand of leadership revolutionised captaincy and the way the game is played, leaving an almighty blueprint for his successor Ricky Ponting.
Waugh hands over a finely tuned outfit to his successor Ricky Ponting
Habitually batting first when winning the toss, run-rates in excess of four runs per over, eliminating draws as a possible result, doing away with nightwatchmen - these were hallmarks of Waugh's captaincy.
But there was also the intangible. Waugh's single-minded resolve infiltrated the entire team, and it is hard to imagine a group of players more dedicated to a shared vision.
It didn't always work. See Calcutta in 2001 and Adelaide last month for examples of Waugh's gung-ho mentality costing Australia dearly.
His records set him apart statistically from great leaders such as Clive Lloyd, but in terms of impact on Australian cricket Waugh has surely eclipsed Sir Don Bradman, Bobby Simpson and Ian Chappell as the country's most influential skipper.
Then there was the darker side of Waugh's tactical nous, the sledging or "mental disintegration" that was allowed to flourish under his leadership.
It started with Border, but Waugh evolved on-field verbals as a legitimate approach, saying it was "all part of the game".
And therein lies the distinction. It was all part of his game, the game he came to redefine. In an era Australia has held centre stage, Waugh has been pulling the strings.
But that era is now over, and all we are left with is the memory of a man the like of whom cricket may never see again.
Perhaps the ultimate leader, Waugh led Australia to the promised land. It is now their task to continue the journey.