SYDNEY, 10 AUG: Steve Waugh has revealed his decision to drop Shane Warne from Australia’s Test team had created a rift that never healed, according to reports in the Australian media.
But far from regretting the decision, Waugh believes his quantum call, made in conjunction with fellow tour selector Geoff Marsh, "shaped and defined me," the reports said.
In his new book, The Meaning Of Luck, Waugh speaks candidly of the lingering fallout of the decision to drop Warne for the final Test of the 1999 West Indies series in the Caribbean. Australia won the first Test of that tour and lost the next two. They squared the series and retained the Frank Worrell Trophy by winning the final Test in Antigua, where leg-spinner Stuart MacGill and off-spinner Colin Miller handled the slow-bowling duties.
"I lost a great friend but gained fortitude from the experience and learnt categorically that knowing what is right and acting on it are two different things," Waugh wrote, adding: "One day, I hope Shane comes to terms with the fact it wasn’t about me not trusting his immense skill and innate love for the big occasion, but rather a common-sense decision based on facts and the key ingredients every leader must trust and rely on gut instinct."
The tone of Waugh’s words clearly reveals the two superstars, who shared an Australian dressing room for more than a decade, have never reconciled the issue. "I always considered Shane a really close friend, but we have a bit of distance now and I think it is probably because of that," Waugh conceded when pressed on the issue, adding: "I don’t think Shane really did recover. It wounded him at the time. For a great player, he was surprised by it and did not expect it." Australia had a three-man selection panel on tour featuring Marsh, Waugh and vice-captain Warne – who was out-voted 2-1 and dropped after what Waugh called "a highly dramatic selection meeting that would not have looked out of place showing in London’s West End.
He had just come back from shoulder surgery on that tour. Stuart MacGill had outbowled him on that tour. We were 2-1 down in my first series as a captain going into the fourth Test so it was a defining moment for the team and for my captaincy. It was a massive call. I did not sleep well thinking about it, but I knew in my heart it was the right decision to rest him in that last Test, because he was not bowling up to his normal standards. I felt by dropping him I was almost doing him a favour by not exposing him when he was not at his best.
Obviously being the great player he is, he thought he could get through it, but I felt at the time Colin Miller was a better option to take it away from the left-handers and we needed to freshen up as a team. From Warnie’s point of view it was a betrayal of trust but from my point of view it was about doing what was best for the team."
In the days leading up to the decision, Waugh tentatively broached the matter to Warne at a team function, mentioning the need for Warne to get fitter and improve his diet of cheese pizza, milkshakes and buttered bread with fries and lashings of tomato sauce.