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‘I was trying to protect Shane’ – Waugh opens up on old feud with Warne

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Steve Waugh has opened up on his feud with Shane Warne and his infamous decision to drop him for the 1999 Test at Antigua, saying all he was trying to do was “protect” the leg-spinner.

Warne was in poor form leading into that fourth and final Test of the series, having taken just two wickets at 134 in the series up until that point with West Indies leading Australia 2-1. With Warne’s fellow leg-spinner Stuart MacGill also in the side, Waugh opted to drop his vice-captain Warne for the final Test where Australia went on to win by 176 runs to level the series.

However, Warne didn’t take kindly to that decision, writing in his autobiography that he believed Waugh “should have backed me”. It’s a feud that has brewed ever since, with Warne, as recently as in March, describing Waugh as “the most selfish cricketer” he ever played with.

Asked about Warne’s comments by Michael Atherton on Sky Sports Cricket, Waugh justified his decision by saying it was for the benefit of the team. “It was my first tour as captain to West Indies. As a captain, you are expected to make difficult decisions,” he said. “That’s why you are given the job. You are not there to please everyone.

“I always wanted to be loyal to my players to a certain point, but at the end of the day, you got to be loyal to the team and their performance. Back in those days, when you are on tour, the two players [captain and vice-captain] and the coach picked the team, the selectors didn’t have anything to do with it. I found it strange, because you had selectors picking teams for series at home, but on away tours it was up to the captain to basically make the decision.

“Warnie had just come back from a shoulder surgery. I think he was put back into the team too quickly. We had both Stuart MacGill and him in the previous Test, turning the ball the same way. Lara, and all the left-handers were hitting with the spin, and I just thought it was the right decision.

“I didn’t consult too many players. I think when you consult too many people, as a captain, you get confused. At the end of the day, you are there to make the decision. It was a tough one, of course.

“Looking back, I think it was the right decision, but it was also the making of me as a captain because I can make that big decision that was not going to be easy, but I knew it was beneficial for the team at the time.

“In a lot of ways, I was trying to protect Shane, because he wasn’t bowling well at the time. Obviously, he didn’t see it that way, but if we had gone on to lose on the next Test, it wouldn’t have been good for anyone.”

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