Shane Warne has reheated his old feud with Steve Waugh by revealing in a new book that he felt "totally let down" by Australia's then captain when dropped from the playing XI in the fourth Test against West Indies in 1999. He also described his former Australia captain as "the most selfish player I ever played with, and was only worried about averaging 50".
Heading to the Caribbean, Waugh had just been appointed Test captain with Warne as vice-captain, and Australia had started the series by bowling out West Indies for 51 to win the first Test by 312 runs. However, Brian Lara made two of the finest centuries of his career, 213 in the second Test and 153 not out in the third, as West Indies stormed back. The home side were leading 2-1 heading into the final Test in Antigua, and Warne's returns in the first three Tests were a poor two wickets at 134.00.
In an extract from his book published in The Times, Warne describes the selection meeting before the final Test.
"I was vice-captain and bowling pretty ordinary and Tugga [Waugh] opened the selection meeting between the two of us and Geoff Marsh, the coach, by saying, 'Warney, I don't think you should play this next Test.'
"Silence. 'Er, right,' I said. 'Why?' 'I don't think you're bowling very well, mate.' 'Yes... fair call,' I admitted. 'My shoulder [after surgery] is taking longer than I thought but it's close now. The feel is slowly coming back and then the rhythm will come, mate. I'm not worried.'"
Marsh agreed with Warne but Waugh stuck to his guns, which led to an impasse. Allan Border, a selector at the time who was was off duty but there in Antigua, was asked for his views. Warne writes that Border supported him, saying: "I back Warney every time. The situation is made for him. Anyway, we owe him. Think of what he's done for Australian cricket. We need to show faith."
However, Warne wrote that Waugh once again asserted his authority as captain: "No, I appreciate your thoughts, AB, but Warney's not playing. I'm going with my gut here. Sorry, guys."
Australia won the Test to square the series, but Warne felt let down. "Disappointed is not a strong enough word. When the crunch came Tugga didn't support me, and I felt so totally let down by someone who I had supported big time and was also a good friend," Warne wrote, adding that he didn't handle his axing from the team that well. "I conducted myself badly, to be honest. I wasn't that supportive of the team, which I regret.
"Looking back, this was probably a combination of the shoulder issue still eating away at me and the pure anger bubbling inside at Steve's lack of trust. During the first three Tests, at various times some of the bowlers came to me, grumbling about Tugga's captaincy and field placements and stuff. I said I was backing him to the hilt and if they had a problem with the captain they should go see him direct. Perhaps because of this, I was deeply disappointed that he didn't back me in return."
Immediately after the West Indies tour, Australia went to England for the 1999 World Cup, where, after starting slowly, they stormed to the title with both Waugh and Warne playing key roles. However, later in the year, when Australia went to Sri Lanka, Warne writes of another altercation before the second Test. In the first match, Waugh had collided with Jason Gillespie on the field, leaving both men with nasty injuries. However, Waugh was adamant he would play in the second Test, while Warne held the opposite view. "I was being a d******* and looking for a bit of revenge. He hadn't backed me and now I wasn't going to back him," writes Warne of the argument, which he eventually lost when Marsh sided with Waugh.
Warne says he "never found it easy" with Waugh after the West Indies and Sri Lanka tours, even though they had started off as good friends, with Waugh present at Warne's wedding and even almost convincing the legspinner to play club cricket for Bankstown in Sydney, with a view to breaking into the New South Wales team.
"He became a completely different person when he took over as captain... It wasn't that he dropped me. I have no issue about being dropped if I'm not performing; if you don't perform, out you go. But there was more to it than my performances - I think it was jealousy. He started to niggle away, telling me to look at my diet and spend more time on deciding what sort of person I wanted to be in my life, how to conduct myself - that sort of stuff. I said, 'Mate - worry about yourself.'"