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banner Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 13:21 GMT
Capping Waugh's career
Steve Waugh in cap and blazer
Waugh's battered cap has attracted criticism
Australian captain Steve Waugh is used to responding to criticism in front of a packed press conference.

But there was one question on Thursday that had nothing to do with the make-up or form of his world-leading side.

Throughout his 17-year Test career, Waugh has taken great pride in wearing the same cap.

The peak may be frayed and the kangaroo on the coat of arms a little past its best, but Waugh insists there is no need for a new one.


I have too many memories simply to discard it
Steve Waugh
And he took exception to the comments of former Test great Neil Harvey, who said last week he thought the cap looked, "bloody terrible".

"He needs to get another one," Harvey told a Melbourne newspaper. "He is on camera all the time and it doesn't look the best."

But Waugh was in no mood to take advice from a member of Sir Donald Bradman's 1948 Invincibles.

"I'll continue to wear it so long as I think it's in a reasonable state - and I think it is at this stage," he declared.

"I have too many memories simply to discard it and, to be truthful, it's really no-one else's business."

Priceless

The cap has been valued at more than Aus$100,000 (36,500) as a collector's item, but Waugh said money had nothing to do with it.

"There's no price tag on it. I would never sell it, it's something I would probably keep in the family or donate to a museum some day," he said.

Steve Waugh in 1986
The cap during its salad days
The significance of the cap is far more than that of mere headwear, of course.

Most initiates into the Test world are presented with their first cap by their captain before play begins but recently Australia have gone a step further.

Batsman Simon Katich was the last man to be awarded the baggy green, at Headingley in August, and presenting it was Waugh's predecessor Richie Benaud.

"Enjoy every single moment that you wear the cap on your head," were the words of wisdom from one of cricket's great sages.

"And respect the traditions of Australian cricket like many that have passed before."

Waugh has certainly done his bit for the history of Australian cricket, having played 145 Tests since December 1985.

And that baggy green cap has been a part of some great traditions, getting soaked with sweat, blood, beer and champagne in the process.

Fellow batsman Damien Martyn is one who fully appreciates the significance of the Test team's headwear.

Martyn gained his cap back in 1992 but, after a nightmare against South Africa in Sydney, was dropped from the Test side for the next six years.

As part of the Ashes touring party he was of course allowed to sport the baggy green, along with his capped colleagues.

But Martyn refused to do so until he took the field as part of the Test side again, not wanting to tempt providence.

Major row

Perhaps the national significance is greater for Australia, but there are those who take personal pride in their headwear.

And for former England wicketkeeper Jack Russell there was an element of idiosyncrasy, as well as the belief that it helped him sight the ball consistently.

Jack Russell in his sun hat
Russell was made to play without his famous floppy
The floppy sun hat was regularly in need of repair but the only person allowed to perform maintenance was Russell's wife Aileen.

She also kept a biscuit tin with a tea cosy on top - the same size as here husband's head - on which the hat was placed to dry after being washed to ensure it did not warp.

The only time Russell was unable to wear the hat was when ECB president Lord McLaurin insisted the England team wear regulation blue caps.

"I thought I'd done enough by sewing an England badge over the Gloucester one," Russell said later.

"There was a hell of a row and I was forced to back down. I wore the blue one and didn't play at all well."

Russell got his revenge on his last international appearance - he broke ranks and wore his famous headwear, sewn in the lining of his regulation blue hat.

Waugh, too, says that his cap will be with him when he bids farewell to Test cricket, and it may even tell him when it is time to go.

"I think when the cap is worn out it will probably be a signal for me to leave," he said. "We might go hand in hand."

Links to more Australia v South Africa stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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