On Warne, by Gideon Haigh

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The Independent Culture

"The trouble is, people I've never met think they know all about me," Shane Warne remarked to Gideon Haigh the first time they met. The best leg-spinner the world has ever seen is, of course, partly to blame for this himself, having produced three (ghostwritten) autobiographies, but they hardly gave a rounded view: as Ludwig Wittgenstein observed, "Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself".

Rather than producing a conventional biography, Haigh has written a series of interlinked essays, each focusing on a different aspect of Warne's life and talent, and each is a delight, not only for the stylish clarity of prose but also for originality of thought. His analysis of Warne's Test partnerships with Glenn McGrath and Stuart McGill is a masterclass in examining the evidence and coming to far-from-obvious conclusions about how and why they worked, and his description of Warne's bowling action – "both dainty and menacing, like Ernst Blofeld stroking his white cat" – is hard to better.

On Warne's personal life, Haigh does not shirk from pointing out the idiocies and misjudgements, but makes the point that Warne has never broken the law and has no recorded history of violence, gambling to excess or succumbing to drink and drugs.

He agrees with the interviewer who said of Warne: "[it is] uncommonly easy to like him and a little harder to explain why", but this book is by a distance the best attempt so far to explore the Aussie genius's art and personality.

Published in hardback by Simon & Schuster, £16.99