Warne re-opens his Waugh wounds
Shane Warne revisits stoush with Steve Waugh, concedes he was still 'looking for a bit of revenge' five months after controversial Test axing
2 October 2018, 08:43 PM AEST
Shane Warne says he regrets his behaviour following his controversial axing on Australia's 1999 tour of the West Indies as the spin king doubled down on his criticism of former skipper Steve Waugh.
In an extract from his new book No Spin, Warne again labelled Waugh "the most selfish player I ever played with" and told his version of events from the tumultuous build-up to the Antigua Test almost two decades ago.
But the 49-year-old also concedes he 'conducted himself badly' after Waugh dropped him for the first time in his decorated Test career.
And he confessed he acted like a "d***head" and was "looking for a bit of revenge" when he tried to convince Waugh to withdraw from a Test in Sri Lanka more than five months later.
The feud between Waugh and Warne has long been public knowledge and the bitterness between the pair stems from that Caribbean tour, which immediately preceded Australia's 1999 World Cup triumph that was built on the on-field feats of their two star players.
But Warne's concession that he behaved poorly after his axing, both in Antigua and the subcontinent later that year, sheds new light on their very public falling out.
Warne was Waugh's vice-captain for the 1999 Windies series, Waugh's first as Test skipper, and thus was one of three selectors alongside Waugh and coach Geoff Marsh.
Warne had undergone reconstructive surgery to his worn-out right shoulder after Australia’s Test series loss in India in early 1998. He was sidelined for the remainder of that year, and his four Tests upon return from rehabilitation at the start of 1999 had yielded four wickets at an average of 94.50 heading into the Frank Worrell Trophy decider in Antigua.
Warne concedes he was "bowling pretty ordinary" in the lead-up to the fourth Test when Waugh told his spinner that he wanted to drop him, a decision both Warne and Marsh disagreed with.
Even when the selection trio sought the counsel of former skipper Allan Border, who backed Warne to retain his spot, Waugh replied, "I’m going with my gut here. Sorry, guys".
"Disappointed is not a strong enough word," Warne wrote.
"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.
"I smoked in the toilet through most of the match. Errol Alcott (the physiotherapist) and a few of the guys joined me in the dunny too. 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.
"I understand he had a job to do. He wanted to win the game and, yes, they went on to win it and draw the series, but who’s to say they wouldn’t have won it with me in the team?
"Steve will always say the result justifies the decision, but I don’t think it’s as simple as that. I lost a bit of respect for him after that. I believe he should have backed me – as I always believe the art of captaincy is to support your players and back them every time. This gains the respect from the players and makes them play for you. He didn’t, it’s history, but I never found it easy with him after that."
Following his World Cup feats, Warne regained his Test spot for the start of their next Test assignment in Sri Lanka, which is best remembered for a horrifying on-field collision between Waugh and Jason Gillespie that saw both men end up in hospital.
After the hosts won the opening match to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, Waugh declared his intent to play the second Test despite a badly broken nose, telling Marsh and Warne that he would field the entire match with a helmet on in order to prevent further damage.
Warne recalls that he and Marsh tried to convince Waugh to sit out the match for his own safety, but the spinner concedes the Antigua incident was also at the forefront of his mind.
"I admit there was an element of bitterness in my attitude to Steve after what happened in Antigua," he wrote. "Equally, it’s my honest belief that you can’t field a whole Test match in a helmet, even in the gully.
"As the conversation went on I got more and more facetious about it. I’d even say I was being a d***head and looking for a bit of revenge. He hadn’t backed me and now I wasn’t going to back him.
"I have to emphasise that my attitude had nothing to do with me wanting to be captain. It was all about him not playing. Someone else could have captained, I wouldn’t have given a s***. Steve Waugh was the most selfish player I ever played with and was only worried about averaging 50. It was about a lack of loyalty. Pretty childish, I know, but that’s the way it was.
"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."
"But that moment was really it for me. Our friendship had been on the edge for a while. After the West Indies and Sri Lanka it was pretty much done."
Despite labelling Waugh a "selfish" player who was only interested in his batting average, Warne also writes in No Spin that his former teammate would bat at No.6 in the best Australian XI he played with during his career.
"We had our differences, but there’s no denying Tugga’s strength of character or ability to play at his best under pressure," he wrote.
"His best was very good, enough said. His bowling was more than handy, too."