Steve (left) and Mark Waugh on the eve of the 2001 Test against South Africa at the Adelaide Oval. The Test marked the 100th the twins played together © Getty Images
On April 5, 1991, Steve and Mark Waugh became the first male twins to appear together in Test cricket. While the former was already an established player, the latter fit in so effortlessly that he featured alongside his brother on 108 occasions. Karthik Parimal looks back at the cricketing bond between the two.
As seven-year-olds, the Waugh twins were busy barging their way into the playing elevens of various teams. They played their first representative match together, at Arncliffe Oval, for Bankstown in the Under-10 Foster Shield. Batting at numbers 10 and 11, they couldn’t contribute substantially with the bat. But, according to Steve, they gave the team ‘two very enthusiastic fieldsmen who wanted every ball to come their way.’ It was during this game that Steve remembers playing a straight drive that sped to the fence past the bowler. It was this feeling of ‘dominance’ that he wanted to replicate time and again.
The reputation of the Waughs
In due course of time, the twins became the most sought-after players at the high-school level, as top and middle-order batsmen. According to Steve — the older of the twins by a few minutes — in his autobiography Out of My Comfort Zone, their school sports master on one occasion forgot to inform the duo about the Liverpool Region high-school cricket selection trials. Realising the predicament, the officials decided to restage the selections despite already having picked a squad. Both Steve and Mark Waugh made the cut, and although the former couldn’t help but feel for the two other discarded players, he was happy about his and Mark’s eventual selection.
At 13, the twins were chosen as two of 50 kids to take part in a week’s intensive coaching in the suburbs of Sydney, where they would receive mentoring and training sessions from some of the best established cricketers in the world.
As years passed they flew to England where they spent the off-season playing for Egerton in the Bolton League, earning a few pounds as overseas professionals. However, the opportunity to enter the international fray came knocking at the elder’s door first.
Entry into Test cricket
By the time Mark made his Test debut in the January of 1991, Steve had six years and 42 matches under his belt in the international circuit, in the longer format. It was an irony that one brother replaced the other for that game at the scenic Adelaide Oval; Steve was dropped owing to a string of poor scores. In fact, Mark got to know of his selection in the Test squad through his elder brother, who broke the news in the presence of the family. “Mum was in a state of simultaneous elation for Mark and distress for me, while my brother couldn’t fully show his joy at being chosen, even after such a long apprenticeship,” recollects Steve in his book.
Mark, though, showed his class on debut, in the 4th Ashes Test against England, scoring 138 against the likes of Devon Malcolm, Angus Fraser, Philip DeFreitas and Phil Tufnell. Apparently, after that innings, Mark walked up to skipper Allan Border and said, “I told you so. You should have picked me earlier!” That, from Steve’s point of view, best summed up Mark’s confidence in his own abilities.
However, it wasn’t long before both twins featured in the line-up.
First male twins to appear together in Tests
Two months post Mark’s debut, the Australians were to undertake a tough tour to the Caribbean and, it was during this series, the third Test of the Frank Worrell Trophy on April 5, 1991 at Trinidad, that Mark and Steve became the first twins to appear together in a Test match, [Elizabeth and Rosemary Signal had played Tests together in a 1984 women’s Test against England] after the latter was recalled into the side. “Becoming the first twins to play a Test together was a proud moment for Mark and me, though we both just wanted to get on with the game and bypass the sideshow that developed once the new line-up was announced. No doubt Mum and Dad back home were excited, doubly nervous and extremely proud at seeing their boys making it together,” writes Steve in his autobiography.
The Test, owing to persistent rains on the first two days, ended in a turgid draw, but it saw Mark score a laborious 64 against a formidable attack comprising Curtly Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall and Courtney Walsh. On the other hand, Steve made little impact in the third and fourth Tests and was duly dropped for the final game which Australia won by 157 runs, but ended losing the series 1-2.
Nevertheless, Steve’s resurgence is well-documented in the annals of cricket. The twins played 108 Tests together, before Mark was dropped prior to the 2002 Ashes series in Australia. For Steve, it was a strange feeling to walk onto the Gabba for the first Test in Mark’s absence.
It’s arduous to choose between one of the twins in the same field on most occasions, for the debate pertaining to which one of them is better often arises. But the fact that both Steve and Mark created their own legacies deserves tremendous praise. It is on this day, 22 years ago, that it all started.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)