BookWag Review: Great Writer+ Great Cricketer = Great Book? Not really…

March 12, 2013
By

Shane Warne

The problem with literary labours of love is that they do tend to be a tad less than fair and/or objective,  and Gideon Haigh’s book on Shane Warne falls squarely into that category. “The finest cricket writer alive on the greatest cricketer of our era” is the tagline used to promote book, and while there will be many who will contest both titles (we think our own Ram Chandra Guha and Sachin Tendulkar are not too bad), what cannot be doubted is that this is a very well written book. If you are an admirer of the craft of sports writing, this is one book you can ill-afford to miss.

Just do not treat this as a one-stop biography of Warne. Haigh’s book is more of a collection of essays on different aspects of the leg-spinner.  The book is divided into five sections–the making of Warne, the art of Warne, the men of Warne, the trials of Warne and the sport of Warne – each discussing a different aspect of the man. And “discussing” is the key word here. Haigh’s narrative is more on the lines of an amiable chat with an expert rather than painstaking analysis. You have Warne’s relationship with Terry Jenner, his differences with Steve Waugh, his brushes with authority, and his penchant for falling afoul of authority, and a lot more. All narrated with a stress on sentiment rather than statistics – you won’t find too many stats in the book, we warn you. There’s not even a summary at the end.

Does it work? Well, we think it does, because Haigh on Warne is easily one of the most readable titles in cricket we have seen in recent times. Its Achilles Heel lies in Haigh’s admiration of his subject. While we doubt not Warne’s greatness, it is a bit surprising to see Haigh trying to rationalise almost every error he made, from getting out of shape, to consorting with bookies, to of course, his well-publicised escapades with the fairer sex. There is a sense of “Shane was always right, just misguided and misunderstood” coming out of the book again and again, which can get a bit tiresome. We also were a bit surprised to see Haigh having a go at Paul Barry’s racy biography of Shane Warne – no, we did not love the book, but surely there are better things to discuss in such a slim volume?

And it is this that stops this book by “the finest cricket writer alive on  the greatest cricketer of our era”  from being a great one. Mind you, it is still a very good read. The almost twenty page analysis of Warne’s action alone is one of the most memorable passages in cricket literature, and Haigh’s look at the Warne-Waugh (Steve) relationship is a must-read for all wannabe leaders and captains. We still think Simon Wilde’s biography of Warne is the best book on one of cricket’s most enigmatic characters, but On Warne remains a book worth reading. Just remember to grab a pinch of salt whenever Haigh starts defending Shane.

On Warne

By Gideon Haigh

224 Pages

Penguin

Rs 499

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