Shane Warne, the enigma


Shane Warne the man, the cricketer and finally the enigma that we have all tried to decode over the years has well and truly come alive in Haigh’s biography. Haigh, in his typical style, critical and free flowing at the same time, delves deep into what Warne meant for Australian cricket and in doing so talks as much about the period in question as about Warne himself. In fact, at many levels, the book is also a chronicle of Australian cricket history of almost a decade, the decade that belonged to Shane Keith Warne.
Haigh, rightly, doesn’t follow chronology. He locates Warne in the long duree of Australian cricket history and tries to understand the legacy the man has left behind. In doing so he has beautifully brought to life the player and his craft, the impact he left on the opposition and finally the imprint he has left on the game of cricket.
Haigh is best while describing the mundane. Something as simple and customary as Warne’s eight step run-up to the crease, which, in normal circumstances, may have been dismissed as routine comes alive in Haigh’s writing. Same this for taste, “These began to teem even as he walked back, starting each time with a rubbing of the right hand in the disturbed dirt of the popping crease – for grip, for feel, and for the reassurance, perhaps, of the ritual. It was a routine that hardly varied, one of those it is difficult to remember starting, and impossible to recall changing.
And somehow, as in everything Warne did, it seemed to signify something larger: as dust and grit over time transmitted itself to Warne’s clothing, he appeared to acquire an earthiness, an affinity with the conditions. No cricketer is so dependent on the turf on which the game is played as the spinner; it can make, break, enfang or defang him. So although Warne bowled better in a greater variety of eco systems than almost any other comparable player, his caress of the crease always felt like an act of propitiation of the cricket gods.”
That there is still a craving for Warne to come back is according to Haigh the evidence of the man’s greatness. Warne’s ability to reinvent himself over time, his coming to terms with a spate of injuries and operations, his new-found art of getting the batsman out more in the mind and finally his innate confidence and belief in what he was about to do make him sit atop the greats the game of cricket has ever seen.
At one level, Australia , Haigh argues, had started taking Warne for granted. It was a part of ritual that Warne would come and bowl out the opposition on Day 4 and 5 of a Test match and give the Australians much to cheer about. There was hardly a deviation from this script for as long as he played- a true testament to the man’s ability and greatness. In fact, it was only after he left the scene that people were left to ponder what he meant for Australian cricket. With the victories drying up, the true legacy of Shane Warne can now be ascertained.
In an otherwise excellent biography, I’d have loved to see more on the rivalry between Sachin and Warne, one that enthralled cricket watchers from across the globe for almost a decade. Shane Warne wiping the sweat of his brow at Sharjah in disbelief when Sachin took the attack to him remains a moment that world cricket will always cherish. Performers of the highest quality, they had the greatest respect for each other and had given cricket fans a duel they can never forget. Haigh, having watched both closely, could have delved a little more into this rivalry.
Despite this, however, Warne is clearly yet another feather in Haigh’s already illustrious writing cap. With this biography he has once again staked a claim to being the best cricket writer in the business and his readers will surely be waiting for him to churn out the next addition to the Haigh oeuvre in the years to come.