Why Warne was right in bitter Waugh feud
Shane Warne has never forgiven Steve Waugh for dropping him during a West Indies tour, according to former Australian captain Mark Taylor.
And Taylor believes that Warne was right to be aggrieved, saying that he never would have snubbed the champion leg-spinner in favour of Stuart MacGill.
Warne this month renewed his feud with Waugh by again branding him "easily the most selfish cricketer that I ever played with". This time, the barb was based on Waugh's abysmal run-out record in international cricket.
Waugh succeeded Taylor as Australian captain in 1999, with Warne named his vice-captain. In his first tour as skipper, Waugh dropped Warne for the final Test against West Indies in Antigua; a match Australia won to tie the series 2-2, with MacGill contributing five wickets.
"They're not best mates, there's no doubt about that," Taylor said of Warne and Waugh on Sports Sunday.
"Warnie was coming back from a shoulder injury and not bowling at his best. Stuart MacGill was in the team. Brian Lara had turned the series around with his batting and he was facing and playing these two leg-spinners very well.
"For the final Test match, Steve went with MacGill and left Warne out. That certainly irked Shane Warne at the time and I don't think he's every forgiven him."
But was Waugh's decision right? Taylor doesn't think so.
"At the time, no [it wasn't the right call]. I didn't think it was," Taylor said.
"I felt that if you had to make a decision between the two leggies, which I think Australia had to do at that stage because Lara was playing so well, I'd have gone with the guy that's been great for so long, even though he wasn't at his best.
"In a must-win game, I would have gone with Shane Warne."
Waugh last week brushed off Warne's latest criticism, telling The Age: "People keep saying it's a feud. But to me, a feud's between two people. I've never bought into it, so it's just one person.
"His comments are a reflection of himself, nothing to do with me. That's all I'd say."
Warne has admitted that the incident ignited his dislike of Waugh. It even led to him undermining the captain on a later tour.
Waugh was an outlier in the controversial selection call, pulling rank as skipper. He overruled his fellow tour selectors, Warne and coach Geoff Marsh, and also ignored former captain Allan Border when his counsel was sought.
MacGill had taken 12 wickets in an Ashes Test at the SCG earlier that year, against just two for Warne, yet had just seven wickets to that point in the West Indies series. Warne had taken just four wickets from as many Tests after returning from shoulder surgery, averaging 94.50 and with just two Windies scalps, yet he was filthy at being dropped.
"Disappointed is not a strong enough word," Warne wrote in his 2018 book No Spin.
"When the crunch came 'Tugga' didn't support me, and I felt so totally let down by someone who I had supported big time and was also a good friend."
Warne may have had justification for being upset, but his reaction was unbecoming. He admitted that he behaved poorly during that series decider.
"I smoked in the toilet through most of the match. Errol Alcott (the team physiotherapist) and a few of the guys joined me in the dunny too. I conducted myself badly, to be honest. I wasn't that supportive of the team, which I regret," he wrote.
"Looking back, this was probably a combination of the shoulder issue still eating away at me and the pure anger bubbling inside at Steve's lack of trust.
"I understand he had a job to do. He wanted to win the game and, yes, they went on to win it and draw the series, but who's to say they wouldn't have won it with me in the team?
"Steve will always say the result justifies the decision, but I don't think it's as simple as that. I lost a bit of respect for him after that.
"I believe he should have backed me – as I always believe 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."
Warne admitted that on Australia's next Test tour, later in 1999, he deliberately undermined Waugh in one of the most painful moments of the skipper's career.
The Aussies were in Sri Lanka and their first Test victory was marred by the horrific collision between Waugh and Jason Gillespie. It left the captain with a broken nose and the fast bowler with a broken leg.
Warne and Marsh both tried to convince Waugh not to play the second Test, with the leg-spinner admitting that he was partly motivated by revenge.
"I admit there was an element of bitterness in my attitude to Steve after what happened in Antigua," he wrote in No Spin, in a passage that again branded Waugh "selfish".
"Equally, it's my honest belief that you can't field a whole Test match in a helmet, even in the gully.
"As the conversation went on I got more and more facetious about it. I'd even say I was being a dickhead and looking for a bit of revenge. He hadn't backed me and now I wasn't going to back him.
"I have to emphasise that my attitude had nothing to do with me wanting to be captain. It was all about him not playing. Someone else could have captained, I wouldn't have given a s--t.
"Steve Waugh was the most selfish player I ever played with and was only worried about averaging 50. It was about a lack of loyalty. Pretty childish, I know, but that's the way it was.
"It wasn't that he dropped me. I have no issue about being dropped if I'm not performing; if you don't perform, out you go.
"But there was more to it than my performances - I think it was jealousy. He started to niggle away, telling me to look at my diet and spend more time on deciding what sort of person I wanted to be in my life, how to conduct myself - that sort of stuff. I said, 'Mate - worry about yourself'.
"But that moment was really it for me. Our friendship had been on the edge for a while. After the West Indies and Sri Lanka it was pretty much done."
Warne's bitterness clearly ran deep because in between those two Test tours, he and Waugh shared one of the greatest moments of their careers.
The two Australian cricket legends were captain and vice-captain of the epic 1999 World Cup win in England, starring with bat and ball.
Waugh made a clutch 120 not out in a gripping 'Super Six' clash against South Africa, then added 56 in the famous semi-final tie against the Proteas that sent Australia into the final, where they easily beat Pakistan.
Warne was man of the match in both the semi-final and the decider, taking four wickets in each game.
Warne did respect Waugh's abilities. He recently named him as the No.6 batsman in a line-up of the best Australian players with whom he took the field. Yet even then, he described his former captain as "more of a match-saver than a match-winner".
Warne has taken endless potshots at Waugh since their animosity became public, also blasting his ex-skipper's obsession with the baggy green Test cap. He recounted one particular incident that left him sickened.
"The ultimate embarrassment was when Steve Waugh ... we went to see Pat Rafter play at Wimbledon and he wanted the whole team to wear it," Warne told the BBC in 2018.
"I looked at Mark Waugh and he said, 'I'm not wearing it' and I said, 'I'm not wearing it either'.
"So the guys that idolised Steve Waugh – Langer, Hayden, Gilchrist, those types of guys, all wear the baggy green to Wimbledon. It makes me want to puke to think about that, these guys, grown men, wore baggy green caps to Wimbledon. So I refused.
"Looking back at some of those photos, It was embarrassing to watch."