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

John Setka quits Labor

Anthony Albanese gets a much-needed win… of sorts

Illustration

A traditional landscape

The UAE hosts a rare public exhibition for the colossal native title painting ‘Ngurrara Canvas II’

Illustration

Broome’s bushman astronomer

Greg Quicke’s mission to help people understand the stars

Hard-pressed

The government appears to be dragging its heels on media law reform


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

Still from Todd Phillips’ ‘Joker’

No one’s laughing now: Todd Phillips’ ‘Joker’

A gripping psychological study of psychosis offers a surprising change of pace in the superhero genre

‘Penny Wong: Passion and Principle’

‘Penny Wong: Passion and Principle’

Margaret Simons’ biography of one of the country’s most admired politicians

Patricia Cornelius

Patricia Cornelius: No going gently

‘Anthem’ marks the return of the Australian playwright’s working-class theatre

East Melbourne liturgy


More in Noted

‘The weekend’ cover

‘The Weekend’ by Charlotte Wood

The Stella Prize–winner returns with a stylish character study of women surprised by age

‘Act og Grace’ cover

‘Act of Grace’ by Anna Krien

The journalist’s propulsive debut novel tackles the aftermath of the Iraq War

‘Here Until August’

‘Here Until August’ by Josephine Rowe

The Australian author’s second short-story collection focuses on the precipice of change rather than its culmination

Image of ‘The Godmother’

‘The Godmother’ by Hannelore Cayre

A sardonic French bestseller about a godmother, in the organised crime sense of the word


Read on

Photograph of Harold Bloom

Canon salute

Remembering Harold Bloom (July 11, 1930 – October 14, 2019)

Image from ‘Judy’

Clang, clang, clang: ‘Judy’

The Judy Garland biopic confuses humiliation for homage

Image of Joel Fitzgibbon and Anthony Albanese

Climate of blame

Labor runs the risk of putting expediency over principle

Afterwards, nothing is the same: Shirley Hazzard

On the splendour of the acclaimed author’s distinctly antipodean seeing


×
×