Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Book Review: Shane Warne: My Autobiography

Reading Shane Warne's autobiography can sometimes be a very funny experience. I couldn't stop visualizing an on-screen persona of Rajinikanth narrating Shane Warne's life to me. Imagine Warne doing something with his right hand, a cigarette goes up. He would then take a match stick with his left hand, do some magic and the cigarette would automatically light up. Sometimes his description of his own bowling is like that "I did xyz, I did abc and got a wicket. yohoo! magic". When you begin to wonder if there is any depth to Warne at all, he gives you a very analytical description of leg spin bowling and match situations. Suddenly he is very perceptive. So you never know what to make of him. He appears to be quite a character. There are several off-field controversies he entangled himself in. Many, in which he is, quite clearly, guilty. However, he describes those situations in the equivalents of "So I hit him on the head with a hammer and he died. Big Deal. Whats so wrong about that. The police make too much of death, I say. I agree murder is not up to my high standards but I thought jail sentence for such a trivial thing was quite harsh." And you are left wondering "how can you not not know you are so wrong." If Steven Waugh, a careful practitioner of batting temperament and technique, chose a similar personality in the form of Dravid, a quiet sober perfectionist in the art of batting, to write his foreword, Shane Warne does something similar. He chooses Ian Botham to write the foreword. Quite appropriate.

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.

Early Days

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

14 comments:

Karthik Sriram said...

Warne in my equivalent of Kamal Haasan - Sublimal on field and off - field u know what.... but i still remember that gatting bowled ball of the century - its cliched, true, but that ball was simply amazing.

LKS

Anonymous said...

Elai Bharath, Nee solli I started Reading Steve's Autobiography and John Wright's Indian Summers... Quiet Intriguing....

I'm starting to like Steve more than i used to like him...

- Ganesh

Nilu said...

I cannot understand why people would want to read books written by sportsmen(/actors) or watch their interviews. It's insulting.

Watch Warne bowl -- enjoy the art of leg-spin bowling. Reading his explanation of the art/himself belies one's own intellect -- he existed because he could do what I couldn't. What had to be done was never in question.

Anonymous said...

"he existed because he could do what I couldn't."

yes. that is the simple reason one would want to read sportsperson's books.. I dont know about actors

-G.

Hawkeye said...

karthik,

i always compared him with rajini but your comparison isnt far off

ganesh,

must be a tough thing for a lara fan to say he liked waugh :-)

nilu,

the link on your name does not link to RH but i'll answer you Q anyway.

the futility of reading an autobiograhy is within acceptable limits and not very different from experiencing the writer in action. reading autobiography enhances the experience with more context and information.

>> What had to be done was never in question.

you are assuming 2 much (or less) about what an autobiography contains.

p.s: Doesn't your logic apply to anyone who has ever written an autobiography? why only sportsmen/actors?

Anonymous said...

Bharath, Haven't completed the book of steve yet... Let's see what he says abt the great BCL. :-). I know not that good... aint it? lol

- Ganesh

Nilu said...

No, it does not apply uniformly across all sections of people. Consider two people who recently wrote their memoir/autobiography -- Alan Greenspan and Shane Warne.

I will still read Greenspan's memoir inspite of it being that simply because of his profession. His trade makes his insights valuable when it's written in the form of a book. Further, I have no interest in knowing stuff 'about' people. Especially when those people aren't me. Be it Greenspan or Warne.

Long story short, Economics lends itself to writing better than Cricket.

Hawkeye said...

Nilu,

I disagree. Such casual reads of autobiographies are entertaintment first. Information that too one that helps us personally is secondary and a big bonus.Mostly such value/information is a perceived bonus rather than an intentional one.

Warne's insights are as valuable to a cricket watcher as Alan Greenspan's insights are to an economist/person interested in economics (unless he passed of a macroeconomics text book as his autobiography rather than talking about his own story).

Nilu said...

Umm, no, I am not looking to learn Economics from an autobiography. I am just saying an Economist explaining himself lends itself to writing as a Cricket's performance on field does.

In other words, Shane Warne's business is bowling. I will figure everything else -- and I don't care about his personal likes and dislikes. Because his hatred for Steve Waugh will not hugely affect what I like him for -- the ripping leg spin and the control over flight. Not to mention, the drift. These things are shown live already. I need no explanations.

Nilu said...

Also, I was not drunk.

Hawkeye said...

/* and I don't care about his personal likes and dislikes. Because his hatred for Steve Waugh will not hugely affect what I like him for - */

as i said before about me being unsure about your assumption on the autobiography - these werent what the book was all about. I didnt like the book big time. But I guess thats besides the point. The intention of reading the book was that it might enhance my experience of watching cricket in general and remembering Warne in particular.

/* I am just saying an Economist explaining himself lends itself to writing as a Cricket's performance on field does. */

point taken. I am just saying reading good cricket books are simply entertaining. If they happen to be more entertaining than greenspan's book that is because Cricket as a subject lends itself better to leisure reading than Economics.

Nilu said...

naa pethinaa kooda makkal bathil solranga ba...

Hawkeye said...

neee petharennu theriyaama pogalai.

thiruppiyum thiruppiyum 'ithu nilu'va' kekarcheve nee purinjikanum.

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