Steve Waugh has revealed how he came close to being dropped from the Australian one-day side during the 1999 World Cup, detailed his dismay at the way his eventual sacking was handled, and criticised Trevor Hohns over his dealings with the then Australian captain before his famous SCG century.
In his keenly awaited autobiography, Waugh also sheds light on the bookmaker scandal involving his brother Mark and the stress it placed on the Waugh family, tells how an insecure Shane Warne had objected to his captaincy, and rails against former captain Ian Chappell, one of his biggest critics.
In Steve Waugh, Out of my comfort zone, now available in bookstores, Test cricket's longest-serving player says his sacking as one-day captain in 2002 had come three years after chairman of selectors Hohns had first suggested he was close to being dropped. This came after Australia's rough start to the 1999 World Cup, which they eventually won.
Waugh's place in the side was saved by his match-winning century in the Super Six match against South Africa in Leeds. Before then, he had had a discussion with Hohns about Australia's imminent setting out of its player contract list. Waugh says Hohns told him that "if the results didn't meet expectations, a change at the top of the one-day team might occur. I took this to mean that had we not qualified for the Super Six, I would have been gone, and that if we failed to reach the semi-finals I was in trouble". He adds: "I was a little shocked at how cut-throat the selectors' attitude was."
He would be more shocked when the axe finally fell. Hohns told him in his Melbourne hotel room on the day of the Allan Border Medal in February 2002.
"I didn't have a problem with the decision. However, I did have an issue with the lack of man-management skills involved," he says. "Surely, after so many years playing and being the captain of a side that had been ranked No.7 when I took over and was now No.1, at least one phone call or conversation letting me know how the selectors saw the bigger picture would have been nice. The clinical efficiency of my dismissal stung me most because as a player I had always given everything …"
Waugh also details how in his high-pressure summer of 2002-03, Hohns had suggested the fifth Ashes Test in Sydney "might be a good place to finish". Waugh, who would save his spot with his last-ball century, said after that amicable, private exchange he was "distressed" to read Hohns quoted soon afterwards as saying: "At the moment, Stephen has our support until the Sydney Test."
In 720 pages, Waugh also confirms reports from the 1999 World Cup - which he dismissed at the time - that Warne had problems with Waugh's captaincy. Waugh also reveals Warne to be a fierce but insecure competitor. "Shane needs constant support, encouragement and reassurance that he is the man," he says. "He loves to be loved."
While he respects the leg spinner, Waugh clearly has little time for former captain Chappell, who once described him as a selfish cricketer, but says he was baffled as to why the former captain didn't like him.
"It might have been that I praised the work of Bob Simpson, who was his sworn enemy, or that I didn't spend hours in the bar drinking and regurgitating old cricket stories," Waugh writes.
Waugh says he had his first hint that match fixing was taking place during the 1993 Ashes series in England, when there was an approach to the Australian players by a prominent member of the Pakistan team. Waugh writes: "… we just said: 'What a twat. Tell him to piss off'."
Hard to take was brother Mark's involvement in supplying pitch and weather information to an Indian bookmaker, for which he was fined by the Australian Cricket Board. He said he was assured by his twin that he had indulged in nothing more serious than supplying match information.
He said seeing Mark walk out to bat at the Adelaide Oval to a chorus of boos after his fine was publicised was "one of the toughest couple of seconds of my cricket life". Waugh himself was mentioned in regard to match fixing only once, on a website run by Pakistani wicketkeeper Rashid Latif, in relation to a "questionable one-dayer against Pakistan" in 1994. Denying any wrongdoing, Waugh says he next met Latif in 2002 in a Colombo Test where the Pakistani wished him well at the start of his innings. The feisty Waugh replied: "Don't you ever put that shit on your web site again or I'll wrap this f---ing bat around your head."
Waugh also details incidents through his career, such as the Australian players' industrial dispute in the late 1990s when 11 of 12 players - captain Mark Taylor excluded - voted to go on strike. The strike was later averted.
He also details the difficulty of dropping Michael Slater during his personal troubles in 2001.
Sledging is widely addressed, with Waugh saying he tried hard as captain to help his team shed its "ugly Aussies" tag. On one famously rumoured sledging incident, he vehemently denies the Australians mumbled "choo-choo-choo" to New Zealander Chris Cairns on the field soon after his sister was killed in a car collision with a train.
Steve Waugh - Out of my comfort zone, Penguin books, RRP $49.95.