Shane Warne is one of my favorite cricketers. I would rate him as the best spinner, I have ever seen play cricket. Knowing Shane Warne through Steve Waugh's book gave me only a partial view into his cricket life. Reading his own autobiography sort of completes the circle. Both Waugh and warne started under Allan Border, played under Mark Taylor, were in contention for captaincy and were superstars in Australian cricket. Reading their books gives an excellent perspective on the state at which Border left Australian cricket and the value of Border, Taylor and Merv Hughes to Australian Cricket. Warne and Waugh took Australia to the next level. They had contrasting styles and personalities, both were equally popular/unpopular, more importantly both were extremely effective. I always thought Warne was more important to Australia than Waugh. He gave Australia a dimension they rarely had and lifted them when things were really bad. As debatable as such opinions are, it Warne certainly made cricket very exciting. He always had something different to say or do. While his antics ranged from childish to brilliant, he was certainly entertaining.
He starts his autobiography with a reference to the movie 'Sliding Doors'. He really wanted to be a Aussie Rules Football player and still wonders 'what if'. On his school life Warne describes the person we all love and hate "I could hardly describe myself as academic. A lot of time I would be a lesson behind. If the lesson was English, I'd be doing Math homework from previous night. Then in Math, I might be copying somebody's History essay. Somehow the work usually got done and I managed to scrape through". And he describes himself better than anybody else has ever done "I liked to see the funny side of everything. I was mischievous rather than nasty. If only I engaged my brain before my mouth, school would have been a less painful experience." Cricket too, Warne. On his book reading habits he has this refreshingly honest thing to say "I can honestly say I have never read a complete book in my life. I have started a few but tend to lose concentration and forget what has happened in the previous pages. Sometimes now I will have a quick look at the pictures if I see one of Steve Waugh's diaries or another cricket book in the dressing room, but that's about it all." So much for cricketers who read Milton and Zen stuff.
His description of his life at the Academic is revealing. It probably also sings a verse for Harbhajan's experience at the Indian Academy. Cricketers comes in different sizes and shapes and Warne hits the nail on the head when he stresses the need for an academy to adapt to a cricketers style rather than function it like a 'one size fits all' military camp; "I do not think I was handled particularly well. I am not going to pretend that I was an angel. Having said that, if all the stories about my behavior were true then I would probably have not left alive. Some of the tales have been exaggerated for whatever motive, but nor was I ever a model pupil. I did not like the way that we seemed to be treated more like school children than young adults." He then describes a situation where clearly everybody involved is clearly wrong. "There was an occasion when I was made to swim in heavy chlorinated pool without goggles because I was not allowed to borrow a pair, having forgotten my own. I had stayed out all night and was unable to get to the digs to pick up my goggle for a 7 Am start - but my eyes burnt for days afterwards. This was more like medieval torture than punishment." Although he doesn't go into the "I stayed out all night" he at least accepts the lesson learned when he says "But I didn't forget he goggles again".
To Be Continued