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Steve Waugh, Justin Langer, and two urinating lions

By Abhishek Mukherjee | Published:Fri, March 09, 2018 8:00am

The famous 16-Test run of the turn-of-the-millennium Australians was an outcome of top-quality, aggressive cricket and outstanding camaraderie and, perhaps, lion urine.

Steve Waugh s rampant Australians finally screeched to a halt at Eden Gardens in 2000-01. However, the story also involved two lions and some micturition, as Abhishek Mukherjee elaborates.

There was no stopping Steve Waugh s Australians at the turn of the millennium once they returned from Sri Lanka in 1999-00. They had lost the series 0-1, but that had a lot to do with Australia getting reduced to nine men after Waugh collided with Jason Gillespie.

They toured Zimbabwe and won their only Test there, though the tour is more remembered for the second ODI, where Australia used nine slips at one point. They returned home and dished out 3-0 whitewashes to Pakistan and India, and whitewashed New Zealand 3-0 in New Zealand. That took their run to 10, one fewer than the 11 set by West Indies between 1984 and 1984-85.

It was only fitting that they would make the record theirs against West Indies. They demolished the tourists 5-0, and when they toured India, they won the Mumbai Test as well. The run read 16.

There was little doubt regarding the 17th after three days of cricket in Kolkata. India, following on 274 behind, were 254 for 4. The rest is part of cricket folklore: VVS Laxman (281) and Rahul Dravid (180) batted through Day Four, and once Sourav Ganguly set Australia 384, Harbhajan Singh (6 for 73) and Sachin Tendulkar (3 for 31) bowled out Australia for 212.

All that is known to any self-respecting cricket fan. What is little known is the leonine side of this amazing 16-Test run.

As is common knowledge, Waugh was a keen explorer while touring. Justin Langer was no different, so it was hardly surprising that they would make a detour of an animal orphanage in Harare.

There was a solitary lion on show. And as Waugh and Langer got closer, the majestic animal decided to urinate on them. We decided to agree that this was a good-luck charm rather than the most smelling aftershave ever worn, confessed Waugh in his tour diary.

It had obviously worked for Australia, triggering their record run of 16 successive Test wins.

When the team was in Kolkata, several members of the team decided to visit the historic Alipore Zoo, now a mere shadow of its glorious past.

Waugh and Langer decided to tag along. Cricketers are known for their superstitions (Waugh s red rag a part of which was inherited by Marlon Samuels is quite renowned). It is not clear whether they had made similar detours of menageries before every Test during their streak.

Once there, they made a beeline for the lion s cage. It is not know whether they waited for the act, but lightning did strike twice. Once again they had their share of lion urine to an amount generous enough to put them in the same class as Pepe le Pew .

Six days later, on the 15th, they became the third team to lose a Test after enforcing the follow-on.

However, there was some consolation. Waugh scored 110 in the Test, his first hundred on Indian soil and would retain The Ashes in England. He would score two hundreds on the tour, at Edgbaston and The Oval, the latter on one foot. He would score over 2,000 runs at over 52 for the rest of his career.

Langer got 58 and 28. Left out for the first 4 Ashes Tests, he replaced Michael Slater at the top in the fifth and promptly scored a hundred. He got 4 more hundreds in his next 6 Tests, and formed a famous pair with Matthew Hayden.

Lion urine works in mysterious ways, one presumes.

Published:Fri, March 09, 2018 8:00am

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Australia Kolkata Harare Alipore Zoo lion animals cricket superstition Zimbabwe vs Australia 1999-00 India vs Australia 2000-01
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