Shane Warne at his candid best

In his autobiography, the former Aussie spin wizard holds a mirror in unhindered language and readers can get an insight into perhaps cricket’s last cowboy.

No Spin: My Autobiography. Shane Warne with Mark Nicholas. Ebury Press/www.penguin.co.uk. Price: Rs699.

In these days of boring quotes in cricket press conferences, there are these murmurs: “Where are the characters who adorned the great game?” And the mind harks back to more than a decade ago when Shane Warne hung up his whites. A storied career, with 708 wickets in Tests and 293 in One Day Internationals, paused forever.

There is a nostalgic twitch and a touch of gratitude as the Aussie was a character, warts and all. He ripped his leg-breaks, lent fresh phraseology to spin with words like ‘zooter’ and never pretended to be a saint, which effectively destroyed his marriage.

He was a flawed man and a fabulous cricketer. Hence, it was all the more challenging when Warne set out to pen his autobiography with assistance from Mark Nicholas, a former cricketer, current commentator and a gifted writer. The book, titled No Spin, has Warne at his candid best.

In the early part, he writes: “I have lived in the moment and ignored the consequences.” The public image of Warne is this magician with the ball often let down by his fondness for the good things that lent grist to the tabloid press. Yet, there is sorrow shadowing his roots stretching all the way to Germany and Poland. His matriarchal grandparents died in their fifties. He writes: “Like a lot of first-generation immigrants, they worked hard and died young.”

The pathos stops when he focuses on his sporting evolution. He discards beer for a while, bowls endless overs in the nets, absorbs everything his coach Terry Jenner drills into him. As always, Warne speaks his mind. There is reverence around Allan Border, appreciation for Mark Taylor, camaraderie with Mark Waugh, anger against Steve Waugh, and mentorship when it comes to Michael Clarke and Kevin Pietersen.

As the book cruises, he reveals a nugget. In the famous 2001 Eden Gardens Test associated with V. V. S. Laxman’s 281 and India’s stirring triumph, Warne states that it was an ‘arrogant’ Steve Waugh who remained obstinate about enforcing the follow-on.

Throughout the book, he throws light on leg-spin, his highs including the ‘ball of the century’ that castled England’s Mike Gatting, the lows of being dropped, undergoing surgeries and about ‘accidentally’ giving information to a bookie. Plus he reiterates his anxiety over trying to be a good parent.

Largely, Warne holds a mirror in unhindered language and readers can get an insight into perhaps cricket’s last cowboy.

In his autobiography, the former Aussie spin wizard holds a mirror in unhindered language and readers can get an insight into perhaps cricket’s last cowboy.