November 2012

Arts & Letters

‘On Warne’ by Gideon Haigh

By Waleed Aly

On Warne. It sounds like a tome of grave significance. Mill On Liberty. Greer On Rage. No more elaborate title is necessary to justify the inquiry. The subject matter is so central to the human condition, so timeless, that we are duty-bound to engage.

And that’s pretty much how Haigh approaches this book. It’s nothing so mundane as a biography. There’s no clear chronology here. It’s a study, constructed much in the manner of a university subject, examining Australia’s greatest modern cricketer from different angles. There’s Warne as artist, Warne as teammate, protégé and deputy, Warne as hapless scandal-magnet. Shane Warne is presented as a many-faceted phenomenon, and each facet treated with a special focus.

It works because Warne is such a mercurial, contradictory character. He can predict precisely how and when he’ll take his next wicket, or the result of a tied one-day match, but is unable to foresee that taking money from a stranger (who turns out to be an Indian bookie) in exchange for match information is a bad idea. He’s uncouth, but also the greatest ever exponent of the most refined art in cricket – leg-spin bowling. His controversies skirt the game’s most cardinal sins – match-fixing, performance-enhancing drugs and womanising – but he somehow emerges mostly adored. A conventional biography would somehow obscure Warne’s story. A cricket writer as peerless as Haigh knows this.

Haigh’s is an exquisite treatment of a much-discussed subject. Cricket fans will be completely engrossed: Haigh’s analysis of Warne’s statistics is the most incisive I’ve seen, and his eye for relevant detail is astonishing. But those determined to see Warne narrowly as a casual purveyor of infidelity above all else will be sorely disappointed. For this, Haigh provides thoughtfully considered context. The result, though, is a somewhat sympathetic account that has Warne as “a philanderer ... although almost certainly a sentimental one, dedicated to the pursuit of poontang while at the same time exalting his wife, even after they were divorced”. Haigh’s Warne is more hapless than contemptible: this will enrage some.

For mine, Haigh is at his inimitable best in his chapter on ‘The Art of Warne’. You get the feeling that Haigh understands Warne’s mastery better than Warne himself, and he never fails to capture it crisply. Haigh’s descriptions of Warne dismissing batsmen “in a state of near or total paralysis”, and of Warne’s appeals being “more like an invitation” to the umpire to join a party are precise to anyone who has witnessed these things. Warne’s wizardry is rich enough to unleash Haigh’s, and Haigh’s wizardry brings Warne’s to life anew.

Waleed Aly
Waleed Aly is an ABC Radio National broadcaster, former practising solicitor and a lecturer in politics at Monash University. He is the author of People Like Us and Quarterly Essay 37, 'What's Right? The Future of Conservatism in Australia', published in 2010.

'On Warne', Gideon Haigh, Hamish Hamilton; $35.00
November 2012

November 2012

From the front page

“Death spiral”

Who is private health insurance helping, exactly?

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and CFMEU Victoria secretary John Setka

Judge stymies Albanese’s plans to expel Setka from ALP

A protracted battle is the last thing the Opposition needs

Image of Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum: A true journalistic believer

Celebrating the contribution of an Australian media legend

Cover image of ‘The Other Americans’ by Laila Lalami

‘The Other Americans’ by Laila Lalami

An accidental death in a tale of immigrant generations highlights fractures in the promise of America


In This Issue

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Vida Goldstein & Theodore Roosevelt

Jean Sibelius in Vienna, late 1880s. © Bettmann/Corbis

Who Stopped the Music

How Jean Sibelius ran out of notes

'Dead Europe'by Tony Krawitz (director). In limited release.

‘Dead Europe’ by Tony Krawitz (director)

Bill Henson, 'Untitled', 2009/2010. Image courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

The Vagina Dialogues: Do women really want less sex than men?


More in Arts & Letters

Image of Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum: A true journalistic believer

Celebrating the contribution of an Australian media legend

Image from 'Never Look Away'

Art life: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s ‘Never Look Away’ and Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Parasite’

By barely disguising an account of the life of Gerhard Richter, the German director fails the artist and filmgoers

Image from 'Mystify: Michael Hutchence'

All veils and misty: Richard Lowenstein’s ‘Mystify: Michael Hutchence’

The insider documentary that wipes clear the myths obscuring the INXS singer

Photo of Blackpink at Coachella

Seoul trained: K-pop and Blackpink

Trying to find meaning in the carefully formulated culture of K-pop


More in Noted

Detail of 'Man, Eagle and Eye in the Sky: Two Eagles', by Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang’s ‘The Transient Landscape’ at the National Gallery of Victoria

The incendiary Chinese artist connects contemporary concerns with cultural history

Cover image of ‘The Other Americans’ by Laila Lalami

‘The Other Americans’ by Laila Lalami

An accidental death in a tale of immigrant generations highlights fractures in the promise of America

Still image from ‘Assembly’ by Angelica Mesiti

‘Assembly’ by Angelica Mesiti at Venice Biennale

The democratic ideal is explored in the Australian Pavilion’s video installation

Cover image of 'Animalia' by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo

‘Animalia’ by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo

The French author delivers a pastoral that turns on human cruelty


Read on

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and CFMEU Victoria secretary John Setka

Judge stymies Albanese’s plans to expel Setka from ALP

A protracted battle is the last thing the Opposition needs

Image from ‘Booksmart’

Meritocracy rules in ‘Booksmart’

Those who work hard learn to play hard in Olivia Wilde’s high-school comedy

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

The government’s perverse pursuit of surplus

Aiming to be back in black in the current climate is bad economics

Image of Blixa Bargeld at Dark Mofo

Dark Mofo 2019: Blixa Bargeld

The German musician presides over a suitably unpredictable evening


×
×