Thursday, January 26, 2006

Definitely out of my comfort zone

[First, the excuses: first book review; 200 word limit; early in the morning; heavy book.]

In Out of my comfort zone, Steve Waugh recollects his beginnings and the steady but jolty path of his first career, that of a cricketer. It is a solid retelling of a story that most familiar with him already know, but it also provides insights into the workings of Australian teams of the late 80s till the turn of the century. As he was an influential figure within the most progressive team of our time, his story also reflects the sport's changing nature. The book is filled with battles with players, with officials, and above all with himself. And that is why, one senses, it reads at time like a how-to book – the workings of his mind feature as often as he does.

However, the book misses some parts of the story. Lara's demeanour is compared to Ranatunga's, and one hostile encounter with the West Indian is right out of a kindergarten playground. What Lara would have said about this is not known. He speaks of the relationship with board officials in a vulnerable tone, bordering on distrust and dismay. The moment where an official says to him, "You're on our side now," is as chilling to us as it was to him.

There are significant human touches: when we turn from his voice to his wife's farewell note, we believe our time with him is up, it is her turn now. But there is also a feeling that before he is too comfortable in retirement, he will return.

Waugh dedicates significant space to the surprise and tribulations of the match-fixing saga, to player contracts, and to his unique look on travel, especially in the subcontinent. There are new and old things here. It may not always surprise, but for those interested in the life and workings of one of the more balanced and outstanding performers around, Out of my comfort zone is a worthy acquisition.

This appeared in the January issue of Mans World. I wish it hadn't. I don't know how these guys do it. It's terribly difficult to not sound like a blurb.