Steve Waugh writes how he played – head on and matter-of-fact – judging by the extracts from his just-released autobiography Out of
My Comfort Zone,
published in theNews Ltd papers over the weekend.

And not to be
outdone, Ricky Ponting’s publisher made sure he’s not going to be overlooked in
the publicity stakes, with his soon-to-be-released tome Ashes Diary 2005 – which includes a
decent swipe at his current one-day teammate Andrew Symonds on the infamous day in England this year
when he was benched for being “intoxicated” just prior to a
game. Ponting, after sensing the popular
Queenslander greeted the news of his demotion in a casual “see if I care”
way, was furious at his “disrespect” and told Adam Gilchrist “he can go
home,” before everyone calmed down.

If you missed the Waugh extracts, then you missed what is clearly
shaping up to be the most readable, genuinely self-penned cricket autobiography
in recent years. And despite Waugh’s own declaration that his book is “not out
there to bag anyone – it’s constructive”
– he does throw oil on some troubled waters.

He offers additional food for thought for the growing lobby of
those who believe Australian coach John Buchanan shouldn’t have had his
contract renewed after the Ashes, as he reveals how following the 1999
West Indies tour, current chairman of selectors, Trevor Hohns, made a
statement that was backed up by the coach (Buchanan), that “there were
one or two players unhappy with my captaincy.”

Waugh writes that not only was this the first time he was aware of such
rumblings, but he also didn’t appreciate “the coach divulging his
perceptions in this forum, especially when he’d had six weeks in the
West Indies and a further two months afterwards to let me in on the
issue.” Waugh felt there was no real foundation to what was suggested
after talking with his players and comments that this took away a link
in the chain of trust with his coach.

Clearly that
’99 tour did cause tensions with his senior players, where he writes of
feeling let down by his most senior professional, Ian Healy, and how in trying
to curb a drinking culture that he discovered was even worse than he originally
thought, he “felt betrayed when later I discovered that
secret pacts had been made by some of the guys to stay out past curfew.”

While Waugh
and Ponting are to be congratulated for not candy coating their books, it also
makes a mockery of any Aussies whingeing in future about opposition players
dobbing them in for various transgressions under the now antiquated notion “that
what happens on the field – stays on the field” – except it seems when you have
a book deal or a newspaper column.

Peter Fray

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