Warne spins yarn nearly as well as he bowls
Shane Warne - My Autobiography. Published in New Zealand by Hodder Moa Beckett. Reviewed by Lynn McConnell.
It is only reasonable that after having fashioned a revival in the stocks of leg-spinning, and consequently a rash of biographies, that Australia's Shane Warne should have his own say.
And so he has in one of the more readable autobiographies of the year, due no doubt in large lumps to the penmanship of The Times' writer Richard Hobson.
Warne's legacy will be a renewed interest in his specific craft, a craft he has applied with some of the finest skill in the history of the game.
Always seen as a bit of a lad, a larrikin who has been involved in some oafish incidents, there can be no arguing with his onfield performances and his commitment to his craft and his team.
Warne puts his own spin on some of the more notable incidents he has been involved in, the sending off of South African batsman Andrew Hudson in the first post-apartheid series Australia played in South Africa, the acceptance of money from a gambler in Sri Lanka, his altercation in Wellington after being snapped smoking and his cellphone chats with an Englishwoman. Readers can make up their own minds with his viewpoint, if that is their desire at all.
In the more relevant cricket material in the book, Warne's story is most interesting. His disappointment at missing out on a career as an Australian Rules player will not be matched by those who have come to appreciate his bowling skills. But it was a formative experience, and contributed to making him the player he has become.
So, too, has his relationship with mentor Terry Jenner. This is obviously a significant factor in Warne's advance and clearly he appreciates having someone he can talk to so easily about the craft.
There is no better advice he could give young readers than that he offers only five pages into his story.
"I was lucky that I could always spin the ball. That was the ability I had been given, but it took a long time to be able to put it on the right spot and in games I tended to mix it up with some medium pace - or fast as I liked to consider it - until probably my mid-teens.
"Away from matches, I would still practise and talk to as many people who were prepared to give me a few minutes about ways of improving. One thing I am good at is listening, which you need to be, especially as a leg-spinner," he wrote.
Listening is such a great virtue for young sportsmen finding their way, but too often many don't, and suffer accordingly.
Later Warne, like all sportsmen who have enjoyed lengthy stays at the top of their game, rammed home the point about the hard work involved in not only getting to the top, but staying there.
"So much improvement comes with practice, experience and developing a plan. I have learnt to think of three words all the time - what, when and why. That means always knowing what I am going to bowl, when I am going to bowl it and to be clear why I have chosen that option," he said.
It is a common factor among the great sports performers of our age that for every hour they are on centre stage there are many more hours of practice behind them. Warne's Nike stablemates Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods are two obvious examples. But it is amazing how few pretenders to greater honours are prepared to put in the time.
New Zealand's emerging status beyond the category of easy beats is acknowledged by Warne.
In his chapter on captaincy, Warne noted: "One man I rate extremely highly is Stephen Fleming of New Zealand. The side has had all sorts of problems bonding and suffered run-ins with coaches down the years, but Fleming has helped to bring them together and pull in the same direction.
"Like a good captain he gels the team. Until he took charge we always felt they were content simply to compete against us. Under Fleming they have developed a more ruthless streak, set their sights that bit higher and are genuinely annoyed if they don't win."
And of Chris Cairns he recalled the 1999 World Cup game at Cardiff when New Zealand beat Australia.
"Cairns struck me so far that I turned around and thought that's going to have some frequent flier [sic] points on it when it gets back," he wrote.
In his view on the future of the game Warne offers an interesting concept, a fluctuating period of five overs in a game when fielding restrictions apply. This would be exclusive of the first 15 overs. It would become a tactical choice for the fielding captain and would be advised to the crowd by a loud siren.
He also believes increasing the number of in-the-circle fielders from four to five. As challenges continually occur in maintaining interest in one-day cricket these are definite points of interest.
Warne has fashioned a thoroughly interesting perspective on modern cricket and as one who has been through most angles associated with the game, he is well placed to comment.