I've just read Gideon Haigh's book on Shane Warne. It's a stunning achievement - not only the best book I've read on an individual cricketer, but one I would place among the finest books about cricket ever written, and period.
On Warne doesn't have the form of a conventional cricketer biography. It is, rather, a portrait of the man in five chapters, each of which explores an aspect of his career and personality. It's a portrait in depth, navigating between the image or images of Warne, the reality, and what grew into a popular sporting myth; it moves back and forward between these to check them against one another, the whole being informed by an immensely detailed knowledge of Warne himself and the game of cricket, both past and present, as well as by a perception of human affairs that is consistently thoughtful, wide-ranging and nuanced.
The chapter on Warne's art - just how he bowled - is a tour de force. Gideon gives a detailed description of the mechanics of Warne's leg-spin and the variations he employed. He offers technical analysis of the complexity of what Warne did, against a background of the whole history of spin bowling. He goes into the psychology of Warne's approach, at once the science and the emotion, describes particular episodes and dismissals and difficulties, and caps all this with a recollection of the Warne performance - something that no one who ever watched it closely can forget and which those who missed the opportunity have now preserved for them here in literary form.
The book's discussion of some of Warne's most important cricketing relationships is also not to be missed. The partnering Warne-McGrath - unusual in being one between spin and pace and so not like most of the other legendary pairings (Lindwall-Miller, Laker-Lock, Lillee-Thommo, etc) - is astutely examined for how the two bowlers complemented one another, yet also in some dimensions didn't. And I learned things from this book about Warne's relations with Steve Waugh that I hadn't previously known.
Indeed, On Warne yields one of the very best pleasures in reading about matters in which one has had a long interest: it goes over ground that is already familiar but puts it under a fresh light and shows you things you hadn't seen before. Warne was a veritable phenomenon and it is hard to see anyone ever improving on Gideon's account of him. That may be a rash accolade but I make it unreservedly. Just incidentally - or perhaps not - the book concludes with a wonderful characterization of Shane Warne's importance in the greater scheme of things, set against one of the best ripostes to the dismissal of sport as mere sport that I have seen.