"Lord, I don't ask that I should win, but please, please don't let me finish behind Akabusi."
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Shane Warne, London, Ebury, 2018. ISBN 9781785037702The book tells the story of Warne’s amazing career from his early life to post cricket. He does not gloss over relationship or other failures. So many books are bland with the author at pains not to offend anyone. This book does not fall into that category. While Warne has great admiration for Steve Waugh, he clearly cannot stand him as a person. There is a photo of Australian coach ,John Buchanan, standing behind Warne. The caption is “John Buchanan is in the background, where he should have been more often”.
The book is full of nicknames – to the point when it is hard for the reader to remember who Pigeon, Swampy, Pup, Punter, Haydos, Binga etc actually are. Warne’s nickname for Ashley Giles – whom he didn’t rate as a bowler – was “Ashley hit-me-miles”, which led to the memorable line: “I made 45 before Ashley hit-me-miles had me stumped by Jones - that’s a death and a half”.
One thing that I did not know about him was that he set the Shane Warne Foundation, which between 2004 and 2016 which gave away $4.1 million to children and families in need. A great effort.
There is an excellent chapter called “The art of leg spin” in which the master explains his craft including the role of his first coach and mentor, Terry Jenner.
His views on the further development of cricket are worthy of attention. He argues that for Test cricket to survive, there is a need “to educate young people to the subtleties of a very long and quite complicated game which actually brings out the very best and the players and pretty much always sees the better team win”. At the same time he sees the need to accept that in future test cricket will be financed by TV revenue and played in largely empty stadiums (except in England and Australia). He actually writes: “test cricket is a television game”. He also suggests that test cricket would work better if it was a four day game with 96 overs per day and a limit of 130 overs for the first innings.
He describes in details his time at the IPL and his unusual tactics as a fielding captain, concentrating on taking wickets not on stopping runs. He seems ambivalent about T20 saying that “Standards of technique and application are less important than thrills and spills”. On the other hand he acknowledges that “modern day batsmen in this form of the game have evolved into terrific, innovative players with tremendous power”. That brings him back to his own tactical approach, arguing that bowlers “need a more aggressive mindset and to think, ‘how am I going to get this batsman out?’ rather than thinking containment”.
Another proposal to safeguard test cricket is that “T20 should be played almost exclusively in the independent leagues that are growing so fast everywhere in the world. Cricket is killing itself with so much exposure and test cricket in particular has no chance of holding its own if T20 is the go-to format for both income and growth at both international and domestic level”.
The book raises a question as to what Warne’s religious beliefs – if any – are. The includes “Thank God”s, a “Help me Lord” and references to praying. At the same time, the name, Jesus is used as an expletive.
Overall an excellent and very readable book.