THERE has been some suggestion that Shane Warne’s re-engineering of the Australian cricket hierarchy was motivated by fiscal punishments handed down for his Big Bash indiscretions.
While there may have been a smidgeon of resentment after failing to read the relevant memo, the critics who spruik that slant have forgotten how driven Warne was. You don’t take 1000 international wickets by being a wallflower. To supplement your enormous skill, you need a similar dose of willpower and hard work.
Warne may have been one of the most naturally gifted cricketers in the history of the game but he also did the hard yards at practice – if not in the gym.
Leg spin is the toughest skill in cricket. It is not about brute force or the ubiquitous emotional bouncer following the cover-driven boundary. Warne’s captaincy of the one-day team during a Steve Waugh injury was insightful and successful.
It is hard to recall a tougher competitor from a softer vocation, although Tiger O’Reilly and he might tie. It is perhaps the loss of attention to skill levels and emphasis on workload that has creased Warne’s hitherto immovable frown lines and prompted him to use Twitter for more than breakfast banter.
Warne is not alone among former players, coaches and fans who share a disaffection with the state of Australian cricket. The Argus report has precipitated little change. The staff roster has been shuffled, but apart from poor Tim Neilsen, who was summarily removed as Australian coach, the deck chairs have been relocated and the Titanic sails on. The selection policy is muddy and the playing schedule is biased toward a domestic 20-over competition but fails to let the fans’ favourite players compete in that competition. This suggests the the left hand not only has no clue what the right hand is doing but been transplanted to another body entirely.
As I have traversed the nation this season I have been surprised at the depth of anger among players past and present and the discontent among fans. Cricket is very much the dominant summer game and the punters, despite protestations from Mickey Arthur, believe sports scientists are effectively picking the national teams.
Some selectors feel neutered by a software program based on laboratory analysis that is overriding cricket form. The buck does not stop with those who have superior cricket knowledge. Warney couldn’t understand the need for boot camps under John Buchanan, so it is no surprise the current technology bothers him. Sadly, the Buchanan era has been paraded as the exemplar of Australia’s 15-year dominance. Buchanan may have had some bells and whistles but at the core of that epoch were incredible skill and devotion, physical and mental, to the cause of victory.
There is a huge contrast between the team building and on-field success of the current system and that of the Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh years, of which Warne was an integral part.
Warney might not have expressed himself in an erudite manner but his thoughts were from the heart. He cares deeply about Australian cricket and knows how to win. He shot from the hip when he was on the field; why should that be any different now? Warne has a serious cricket intellect and the gurus of Australian cricket should neither condemn him for grammatical errors nor ignore him due to faulty punctuation.
So what if he has picked all his mates to take over the game? There are quite a few Victorians as expected and surprisingly few St Kilda on-ballers, but Warne’s loyalty is a part of his psyche and loyalty is a wobbly concept in Australian cricket at the moment.
He didn’t mention himself in any consultant or management position even though he could handle most of them. CA have rebirthed Dennis Lillee after dispensing with his costly Pace Australia services more than 15 years ago. I assume Warney agreed with that placement although his choice of Ian Chappell as the premier consultant means Lillee is not the eldest staff member, given that Warne would sack John Inverarity.
The key to the useability of Warne’s stream-of-consciousness wish list is a face-to-face meeting with James Sutherland, the current chief executive and survivor of the Argus report. Sutherland would be remiss not to interview Warne.
Sutherland could flesh out the ideas, find who would be available for any of the positions and pursue the thread. I’m not at all confident that will happen.
If the secret of good management is appointing good people, the new CA board could start by appointing a man whose heart and soul is rooted in cricket, but just to make sure he is serious, make it an honorary post.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.