Thursday, November 15, 2007

Book Review: Shane Warne : My Autobiography - II

(Video: Warne on Warne's best 10 deliveries)

"Really, it was a complete fluke" - This is Warne's comment on the 'ball of the century'. Although I did not hold the hype surrounding the ball in that high a regard, its hard not to look forward to Warne's own description of that ball. "I am not sure a single delivery could change a person's life. But in a second or so it took to leave my hand, swerve to pitch outside legstump, fizz past the batsman's lunge forward and clip off stump my life did change." Botham has later said that Gatting has not looked that horrified since his lunch was stolen from him. Cricket fans who saw the ball would admit that it was an orthodox leg spin stock delivery just that it had a big ass turn. Warne says "the best leg breaks should curve into the right-hander through the air if they are spun hard enough..although I didn't realize how far it had deviated until I saw the replay". Moving on to the topic of Warne's gurus. Shane Warne' s relationship with Terry Jenner is often talked about in glowing terms by the media. I guess, when the media describes someone as a famous cricketer's guru, we should understand the guru to be an occasional consultant. Ramakant Achrekar comes to mind. Warne describes what the media skipped. When Warne met TJ, Terry had just been released from 18 months of prison sentence for bank embezzlement. Warne describes, in his own inimitable style, why he liked Terry Jenner, "He liked beer and a good time. When he said something I listened, which was not the case with other coaches at the Academy. It helped that TJ could do everything he suggested to me. Suggested is an important word because he never presented his way as the only way. In what I found to be an over-strict regime, it was refreshing to meet somebody who did not impose his methods on me."

99 World Cup

Reading the book gives you an insights on the small habits, the inside stories and the subtleties involved in the game. Steve Waugh's book completely enriched my experience of watching cricket in England. No amount of TV would impress upon me like his book on the steepness of the slope in Lords. I have seen most of the Ashes series Warne has played and wanted to know Warne's thoughts on many of those matches. Reading the book was really like watching a movie with a director's commentary switched on. Here is my opinion Warne's aggression and his attitude. Some like it. Many don't. I love it. I think his 'attitude' and his talent are atomic. Indivisible. He is talented because he has that attitude and vice versa. You shut one up and you shut down the other. It is important for people to be comfortable being arrogant. Many successful people are assoles. And, it is hard for people, especially Indians, to accept that it is okay to be one. Case in point World Cup 99. Warne had a bad series until the semi-finals. Prior to it, he flopped in India, was dropped for the last test against WI leading up to the WC, had misbehavior problems in the WC Scotland game and there were calls to muffle him. Then he got Gibbs out with a ripper of a delivery, at a time when its most required. That was the turning point of the game. The way he pumped up Australia with his celebrations clearly changed the way they were looking at that game. "The single delivery restored all the confidence that had been slipping away the previous week. I was so pumped up, I had to take deep breaths to concentrate". The part about Warne's prediction that Gibbs isn't properly holding on to his catches was to me an astounding observation. It defines Warne to me. He casually makes this along with his other inane observations. He says this about his prediction the day before the game "We had gone through our usual business, run through the game plan and assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition when Geoff Marsh asked for any final comments. I put up my hand and said that if Gibbs took a catch we should stand our ground and let the umpire make a decision because I did not think he held the ball long enough before beginning his celebrations. He had taken a catch recently which I considered to be debatable. The meeting broke-up amid laughter a few shouts of 'Shut Up Warne".

Match Fixing Scandal & Anecdotes

The book has interesting anecdotes apart from Warne's thoughts on his opposition teams, match fixing scandal and his own leg spin bowling. One interesting anecdote is how the irritating Basit Ali kept causing delays in getting ready to take strike. Basit Ali to me was as much a Miandad as Adam Hollioke was Ian Botham. So on the last ball of the fourth day, Warne and Healy decide to give it back to him and Healy deliberately walks up to Warne for a talk after Basit is ready, Warne claims he said " do something mate! bowl him around his legs or something". But if you notice Richie Beneaud's commentary (in video above) you'll get an insight. The concentration loss sees Basit getting bowled around his legs. He describes his duels with South Africa a great deal. Another interesting anecdote was from his bowling to, obviously, Darryl Cullinan. Poor Cullinan, I guess he was the only batsman to have really been damaged by 'mental disintegration'. On match fixing Warne insists he has never fixed a match. From the reports I have read before, Waugh's book and now Warne book, I am inclined to believe that the money Warne received from 'John' the betting guy was taken out of context and that Warne is not guilty. Warne lost money on the gambling table and this man, introduced to him by M.Waugh, gives him the lost money back as a 'gratitude of a fan'. Most country's, at least Indian, laws hold a person culpable for accepting money regardless of whether a favor was returned or not. So technically Warne was guilty. But he has been given many gifts by people in subcontinent and that one of them turned out to be a 'crook' is more of bad luck. He narrates Malik's $200,000 offer to him. It adds up with what Steve Waugh wrote in his book. Malik seems to be guilty as per anybody who has ever squealed about match fixing. However, most people including Warne are genuinely surprised with Azhar and Cronje's convictions. Also surprising is Waugh and Warne's rabid dislike for Ranatunga. I personally think Ranatunga was the cheapest and worst captain/sportsman I have ever seen as far as playing ethics and aesthetics go. While it is no surprise that the aussies hate him, I am glad they do.

Captaincy & The Art of Leg Spin

Warne concludes his book with a chapter each for sledging, captaincy and 'art of leg spin'. On captaincy, it is well known that Border got Australia back from the dead. However, most players who played under Taylor clearly thought Taylor was the best captain among Waugh, Taylor and Border. Warne is no exception. Taylor's tactical skills come in for lot of praise with good examples of match situations (batting first in 97 old trafford test is a notable example). Contrary to popular opinion, Warne does not review Waugh badly though and in fact praises him. Warne's choice of really good captains is unsurprisingly Stephen Fleming and surprisingly Wasim Akram and Jimmy Adams. Warne's assesment of Atherton made me happy. I thought Atherton was a very interesting guy, who could come up with a superb observation that would have never struck you while still managing to be detestable. Warne has both criticism and praise for Mike A. I personally thought Warne would have made an excellent Aus captain. Probably one of their best. Unfortunately he was unlucky (For some perspective - I also thought Lara and Sachin were brillliant captains but ultimately unlucky). I never cared for good personal character record of a captain. It is irrelevant. But then the stupidity of popular opinion can never be underestimated. Then there is a huge chapter dedicated to 'Art of Leg Spin', which I think most people would love to read. He talks about his choices surrounding when to bowl the wrong un', using angles from the crease, creating variable bounce and speed, when to bowl round-the-wicket, overspin, straightball, and zooter. He also describes the various grips he uses, he mental preparation at the top of his mark, his work on his follow-throughs, falling away at the crease etc. After seeing Channel 9 analyse his bowling to unlock its secrets during 90s this read-up was very interesting. He is okay with batsman playing the sweep shot against him and hates when they pad him. He also lists Sidhu as one of the best batsman to play his spin among the other usual suspects.

Warne's List of Best Cricketers

Finally, Warne's rating of Waugh in his top 50 cricketers is another controversial topic that was given a lot of media attention. I did not think Waugh's was the most aberrant ranking in that list. While it is easy to dismiss the list as 'warne's opinion', even opinions have to make sense at some level. The first instinct is to think of Warne as putting in place a guy who stole Warne's captaincy opportunity. Warne's relationship with Waugh is complex because he constantly says his closest mate in the team is Mark Waugh. I never thought Warne 'had it in' for Waugh at any point in time during the book. If you observe the non-Australian cricketers in the list, if Warne had used their performance against Aus as a bench mark, the list seems a little fair. Especially Waqar, who rarely been awesome against Australia. Since Warne has played with/against most of people in the list, then you have to grant him some concession for he has 'real' experience verses our 'TV' experience. However, even after all those discounts there are still gaps. For example his new list contradicts his own top Aus XI and Top Intl XII listed in his book that was written well before his newspaper list. His Aus Test XI is Taylor, Slater, Boon, M.Waugh, S.Waugh, Border (Captain), Healy, Warne, Hughes, Lee, Mcgrath, and Reid. His Intl XII is Anwar, Gooch, Lara, Sachin (Vice Captain), Martin Crowe (Captain), Kallis, Cairns, Moin Khan, Akram, Saqlain, Ambrose, Brian Macmillan.

Overall I thought Warne's book was an interesting read. But it does seem as if he wrote the book with less enthusiasm or interest. Waugh's book was serious and aimed to provide a lot of information. This is just a casual effort


Karthik Sriram said...

Sachin - I believe he never got an ideal situation when he was the captain - like SG and RD had.... he had suckers like T. Kumaran and David Johnson for bowlers.....

Your review has made me want to buy this book - much like you made me buy SRW's.


Born a Libran said...

Interesting that SRT is listed as VC in the world XII team...

Hawkeye said...


t. kumar was an excellent bowler. tendulkar destroyed his career by not picking him.

born a lib,

yes! i noticed that too. martin crowe is captain, which by itself is fascinating.