Shane Warne’s feud reignition with Steve Waugh speaks more to his mental constitution than it does expose Waugh’s incompetency. And that’s fine, writes RYAN VREDE.
The Netflix series The Last Dance taught me many things about the mentality of elite athletes, among those that they are petty creatures prone to remembering things others would deem inconsequential.
Indeed, they’d not only remember, they’d also use it to underpin theories they’ve held about opponents, or in Warne’s case, teammates.
Warne, reacting on a piece by Cricinfo exposing Waugh as being some distance ahead of his nearest rival for involvement in run-outs during his international career and a follow-up video by Rob Moody showing each of the 73 times Waugh’s batting partner was run out, rolled out his now age-old accusation that Waugh was ‘… easily the most selfish player I’ve ever played with’.
Wow !!!!! https://t.co/7p4tWvjp1h
— Shane Warne (@ShaneWarne) May 15, 2020
‘Wow!’ Warne’s salt-flavoured tweet began. ‘So S Waugh was involved in the most ever run outs in test cricket (104) & ran his partner out 73 times – is that correct? Mmmmmmmmm’. It wasn’t correct, the numbers reflected all internationals. But Warne wasn’t about to let this minor detail derail the hate train.
Wow ! So S Waugh was involved in the most ever run outs in test cricket (104) & ran his partner out 73 times – is that correct ? Mmmmmmmmm https://t.co/TpEnbnDG1q
— Shane Warne (@ShaneWarne) May 15, 2020
The pair have history and Warne has struggled to move on, despite his protestations to the contrary, primarily advanced through the assertion that he has selected Waugh in his all-time best Australia team.
Warne has made no secret of his anger at being dropped by Waugh for the final Test of the 1999 series against West Indies in the Caribbean. The leg-spinner had been uncharacteristically average and deserved the chop. Australia won but Warne couldn’t let it go, writing in his autobiography: ‘I lost a bit of respect for him after that. I believe he should have backed me – as I always believed 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.’
Not even the ocean is this salty.
It is juvenile and amusing, but not surprising. Warne shares a penchant for the petty with arguably the greatest athlete of all time, Michael Jordan. ‘His Airness’ had a long memory when it came to incidents where he had felt wronged, undermined or both. The vast majority of elite athletes do and it often serves as a catalyst for exceptional performance, irrespective of whether the slight was legitimate or only perceived to be legitimate.
This one isn’t legitimate. I’ve watched Moody’s video. An hour of run-outs isn’t something I’d usually watch, but I did so that you wouldn’t have to (and I strongly recommend you don’t because there are a myriad better ways to spend an hour).
I wanted to give up after the first four run-outs, none of which were Waugh’s fault. This was consistent throughout the video. There were moments of exceptional fielding, over-enthusiastic partners, poor calling between the partners and, yes, incidents where Waugh was at fault. Those, however, were nowhere near prevalent enough to support Warne’s theory.
Even Moody tweeted: ‘I’m one of the biggest Steve Waugh fans ever! I have lovingly recorded every ball of his Aus career since I was a kid in the 80’s. I posted the video specifically to show Waugh WASNT at fault for all the 73 run outs!’
Waugh played at a time when super-athletes, the likes of which are commonplace in the modern game, were outliers. Waugh’s conditioning was adequate for the demands of the game during that time, but for the majority of his career he played in Australia teams with players’ conditioning reflecting their love for the social dimensions of cricket. This counted against Waugh and his teammates when trying to make up the 22 yards they needed to, but was a strength on nights out.
Most importantly, Warne overlooks the fact that Waugh, who ranks 11th in the all-time Test run-scorer’s ranking, spent more time in the middle than most elite batsmen in the game’s history. Furthermore, he is the 34th-highest run-scorer in ODI history.
Simply put, there was more chance of run-outs happening by virtue of the time spent at the crease. It’s therefore no surprise that the run-out list is populated by some of the game’s great batsmen, including Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Mahela Jaywardene and Inzamam-ul-Haq, who complete the top five for involvement in run-outs in all internationals.
Warne probably is never going to let his low regard for Waugh go. Jordan still hates Isiah Thomas for something that happened in the 90s. It’s how most elite athletes are wired.
But Warne would be well advised to root his grievances in fact. Facts don’t make for entertaining feuds, though.