You hand-wrote your autobiography, all 240,000 words of it. Is it true your right arm was a total mess at the end of it?
Yes. I still feel a bit of pain between the right finger and the ring finger. I must admit I did not know what a massive task it was until I did it.
Even a year after the book was finished I could barely bring myself to write anything. I put every ounce of effort into the book. I have not done a lot of writing since. It seemed a good idea at the time until I got into it and 960 foolscap pages later I was finished.
In the book you compared me to the dishevelled TV detective Colombo. Should I be offended?
In your book you actually had a chop at your brother Mark for being undisciplined in the West Indies in 1999. That was a pretty big call for you, wasn’t it?
I tried to be hardest on myself though. There is nothing worse than reading a book where someone bags everyone else. They were honest observations. I think they were pretty much on the money and fair but you have to recognise people want to read insights into people in the side.
Not long ago I spoke to your dad who said he couldn’t believe that after almost 40 years of combined play it came down to the final innings game to see who had the better first-class average, you or Mark. Wasn’t that amazing?
Just crazy really. Ridiculous. You just couldn’t believe that after 20 years it came down to whoever scored the most in the final innings of our last Shield game together. It probably said a lot about how even our talent was.
In what way?
There were a lot of times people said I was less talented and Mark was less determined. That was off the mark. In fact as a kid it was probably the other way around. When you get older you fit a certain category and then you get things written about you which you tend to believe and start playing that way. At the end of the day we were pretty similar in a lot of ways.
One of the few times when you had that absolutely kicked-in-the-guts look was the day in South Africa when Hansie Cronje confessed to match fixing. Were you as shattered as you looked?
Yes. I just felt for all of South Africa. They were totally shattered. He was their hero. Their national captain. Their role model and one who everyone thought was playing in the right spirit of the game. It was totally out of character. People felt cheated and as an opposition player you felt cheated that maybe some of the games you played against him were not above board.
When you played him, didn’t you stir up Hansie?
Look, we always had a bit of joke but I knew when I had him when he started swearing at me. That’s when I knew he had lost his rag. We were good mates in some ways but I noticed the change come over his personality late in his career. Obviously things were starting to happen.
And not as friendly. The banter was gone . . . nothing.
Any other players who you managed to slip under their skin?
When I was bowling there were some players who I felt I had it over such as Herschelle Gibbs and Carl Hooper. You just felt like they feared you for some reason. It was not my pace or skill. But I just felt I had something over them. Maybe body language.
And how about ones that you found intimidating?
Viv Richards. He owned the ground when he walked on. It was almost like he was from another planet when I played him early in my career. But I always enjoyed it. Javed Miandad was a tough competitor. Wasim Akram, Curtly Ambrose . . .
Curtly never really spoke to anyone, did he?
fore that all he would do was nod. But behind closed doors he was great for their side.
Who are the players who make you stop when you are walking past the television?
It’s great to see James Pattinson and Patrick Cummins rip in and tear the opposition apart. Australia has been missing that raw aggression. We have some outrageous talent coming through. David Warner makes you stop as well. That switch hit was incredible. Warner is changing the face of cricket. I have told my young bloke who is 12 that you are going to have to start batting left-handed as well because by the time you reach 19 it will be expected batsmen will have to bat with both hands and maybe bowlers bowl with both hands as well.
You would not have seen that coming, would you?
John Buchanan had us throwing left- and right-handed and a lot of people thought he was mad. Looking back, Buck was 10 years ahead of his time.
Who’s the next superstar of world cricket?
Darren Bravo from the West Indies. He is identical to Brian Lara in every way. He is world cricket’s next superstar, no doubt.
Tell us about the Laureus Sports awards and why they matter?
They are the premier awards in world sport. The nominations come in from a panel around the world. The final nominees are selected by the Laureus Sports Academy which I am a member of with Michael Doohan, Dawn Fraser and Cathy Freeman. We judge those awards and they are probably the most prestigious awards for a sporting team to win. We were lucky enough to win the world sports team award in 2002 which really put cricket in the map.
When you were captain you railed against being a selector after the 2001 Ashes tour in which you dropped Michael Slater, but you supported making Michael Clarke a selector. Have you changed?
No. What I objected to was the fact that I was not a selector in Australia as captain but I was on overseas tours. That caused a lot of problems. It was very inconsistent. That’s why I said it had to be one way or the other. There were a couple of players who did not handle their sacking very well and that potentially caused rifts in the side. I was always about the captain having a consistent role.
You have been quite low profile in a cricket and public sense since you retired. Why?
I was too busy to be in the public arena. I have had a business project in India which has taken eight years to set up. My philanthropy with my foundation here and overseas takes an enormous amount of work. The Laureus World Sports Foundation, I am on the MCC world cricket committee, I helped with the Argus Report. I am an ambassador for a number of companies here and overseas. Your time is limited. I have stayed in contact with quite a few players. Every time a new player gets chosen for a Test match I send a message. In some way people expect you to go back into cricket but I wanted to see what else was out there. I will always have a link to cricket but I had opportunities I wanted to pursue.
Do you miss cricket?
I think you miss that competitive element but I am so busy now I don’t have time to think about missing it. I never wanted to be dictated to what I wanted to do. A lot of players finish and are in a position where they wanted to go back in to cricket. I wanted to set myself up and pursue other opportunities. I have three young kids growing up. I want to see them pursue their passions. But I will always be involved in some way.
You had your ups and downs in your relationship with Shane Warne. How did you finish?
It’s funny. I always thought it was good. I remember that talk in England (in the 1999 ICC World Cup when it was reported Warne had lost faith in Waugh) when it cropped up I had no idea. When you are captain you are busy doing your own stuff. Warnie has always had strong opinions. I never had a problem with Warnie. I think with Warnie, as captain you had to make some tough decisions which did not please some of the players but I don’t regret any of those.
How do you look back at your career? Is there anything you would change?
You would do things differently. I don’t think I ever fulfilled my potential as a one-day batsman. I batted low in the order and No.6. Domestically I averaged over 50 with a high strike rate. I could have been a much better batsmen but I played in an era where we all seemed to have set roles and I got used to coming in late and going off for five or 10 overs. It would have been good to bat up the order and have more influence.
Allan Border once admitted that in the nine years you played together you never had a long conversation despite your mutual respect. Amazing really?
I guess so but I always believe the best captains and leaders are not always the best talkers. A lot of time they are the best learners and listeners. It is not how much you say but what you say. I have never subscribed to the theory that because you are a great communicator you are a great leader.
You have become a strident anti-corruption campaigner, recently calling for lie detector tests. Do you feel there is a lot happening we don’t know about?
When I was playing I had no idea what was happening. I was oblivious to it. The more you look into it and hear things the more you realise too many things add up to something not being right. I think it goes a lot deeper than what we would hope or imagine. It was great the Pakistani players got strong sentences. That sent a really strong message. I am part of a world cricket committee and chair the corruption group and think we have got to be a lot stronger in all sport not just cricket.
So you sense a threat to wider sport?
Yes. I saw recently where they rate spot fixing, rather than security, as the biggest threat to the Olympics. World sport is in a very delicate position. There is massive money around and you have to be naive to think people are not tempted by money. We have to be vigilant and educate young players.
What do you make of Test cricket’s worldwide health?
There have been some real surprises over the past six months. New Zealand, Pakistan and the West Indies have been through tough times but are on the way back. New Zealand have a couple of good young bowlers, Pakistan scored two great wins over England. The West Indies have some good emerging players and if they get (Chris) Gayle and Bravo back Australia will be surprised when they go there.