DISCLAIMER: THIS POST CONTAINS GRATUITOUS MAN LOVE.
Imagine two men. One capable of changing history with drift and turn from the rough, the other capable of making it riveting to those who think drift and turn from the rough was illegal in Tasmania until 1997. Imagine they meet, one as artist, the other his subject. Imagine no longer.
I will say from the outset that I think Gideon Haigh is the cat’s pyjamas. His writing has enthralled me for many years and a better wordsmith equipped with knowledge of the Duckworth-Lewis system there is not. His catalogue of writing on subjects other than cricket (I’m looking at you The Office) is worthy of hearty literary servitude, however his musings on the mystical art of bat and ball are simply peerless. He is at the front, speeding away. Daylight is a distant second.
The same can be said of the Sultan of Spin, Shane Warne. Once a full-time cricketer/part-time celebrity and now a full-time celebrity/part-time cricketer. Once he had a case of VB on his arm where Liz Hurley now resides, and for all the battering headlines and inescapable SMS-capades he seems to be doing better than ever. I feel I’m not alone in asking, precisely in the name of the lord, how?
I’ll warn those who do cartwheels when reading of mudslinging there is little of it in the folds of this book. This book is far, far better than that. For all of Haigh’s occasional excursions into Warne’s personal life, one that cast such a shadow over his achievements and eventual captaincy aspirations; rumours are treated as rumours and facts respected as fact. Haigh is clearly not here to make friends though via his measured, thoughtful insight he is unlikely to make any enemies either.
On Warne is a relentless page turner, a lamentable rarity in today’s sporting catalogue about to fill Santa-faced stockings throughout the country. Split into sections exploring the beginnings of Warne’s career, his rise to national honours, his turbulent personal life, the relationships with team mates and the press. On Warne never has a dull moment much like the man. Lest we forget Shane Warne has been both the highest paid cricketer of his generation and also a prime-time talk show host, albeit one whose weaknesses were widely-documented.
Cricket brings out your deepest secrets and lays them on the pitch. How you play the game is an intimate expression of who you are. Should you wander past a suburban cricket ground and see a figure, cap on, charging the bowler, swinging wildly at the ball, throwing caution to the wind you can bet he won’t come off and dive into a copy of War and Peace. Similarly a bowler who takes near hours to meticulously set his field, mechanically sprint up and deliver a spell of slow-medium bowling that could hit a five cent piece at will is unlikely to be up on drunk and disorderly charges anytime soon. So where does the line between Shane Warne, the womanising drunkard begin and Shane Warne, one of the most intelligent bowlers and most astute captains of our time end? Where does it begin to blur, or are they somehow one in the same?
Part biography, part essay, part coaching manual, part anthropological study, On Warne is so many things. For the cricket lover it is the one book that breaks barriers down between the freakish ability of Warne and the simplicity of a man who loves his craft like few others. For the cricket novice there is no finer chronicle of the moments he created and the men he embraced and spurned alike.
But most of all, for those who don’t understand why Shane Warne continues to be such a topic of discourse, I can think of no better place to point you than Gideon Haigh’s On Warne.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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