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Warne spin not that hard to pick

Posted by on 04/12/2018

SHANE Warne has delivered manifestos before. In his pre-social media playing days, they came on scraps of hotel notepaper, written with a thumbnail dipped in tar, to the ghost writer of his newspaper column. Or he’d improvise a press conference, where he knew and exploited the golden rule: if Warnie says it, it’s news.

Warne was and is an important figure in Australian cricket.

Although he sometimes makes himself all to easy to laugh off, those who carry influence in the game do listen to what he says.

His passionate care for the well-being of cricket and his fundamental understanding of how to play the game are unquestioned. And 708 Test wickets buy a fellow a bit of credibility.

When we look back to his verbal eruptions over the years, however, there’s been a common thread – they are incidentally about cricket but principally about Shane Warne.

There were rituals, in the 1990s, where Warnie would declare that the next England tour would be his last. This was when he was cracking it over some disciplinary issue. There were his philosophical musings about the incompatibility of leg- spinners working in tandem. This was when he was being overshadowed by Stuart MacGill. He voiced a scepticism about coaching and sports science when John Buchanan had the hide to drop gentle hints about Warne’s fitness.

When Warne took a set against players he considered did not belong in Test cricket, and there were a few who copped his not-very-subtle bullying, it was at moments when Warne felt his own position was insecure.

His senior teammates knew it, and found it easiest to discount: Warnie just being Warnie, perceiving the outside world with all the insight of a man having a panic attack in a hall of mirrors.

And so it is again. Warne’s viewpoint that ”cricket people”, rather than ”muppets”, should be running the Australian team may well be valid. I would rather see Rod Marsh and Michael Clarke selecting teams than Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog. But even if we agree with Warne’s thrust for a ”dream team” of cricket brains, where are two of the sharpest minds and best communicators of the past 20 years? The absence of Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist betrays the first criterion of membership in the ”cricket people” team, which is to be an unswerving acolyte of S.K.Warne.

The only surprise is that Darren Berry isn’t assistant-assistant coach (working on commission) and Brian Lara isn’t chairman of the board. Being left off the dream team is a tough way to discover you’ve been de-friended!

(There’s always a personal itch at old jealousies that undermines Warne’s logic. Steve Waugh, and his captaincy successors Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting, famously enshrined the baggy green. Warne describes himself, pointedly, as ”passionate about the white floppy hat”.)

”Rugby people” can’t be ”cricket people”, evidently.

But Warnie was always enthusiastic about drawing cross-code inspiration from Robert Harvey, or Stewart Loewe, or Aaron Hamill. Maybe footballers can understand cricket if they play on the same-shaped ground.

About the over-staffing around the Australian team and ”too many people justifying their existence”, again Warne may have a valid point. His remarks should be investigated.

But what is to be said about his Melbourne Stars? If that wasn’t a well-padded outfit, I’ve never seen one. Although, in the end, the Stars’ healthy entourage did prove their non-muppet credentials by not justifying their existence.

As Fairfax’s Jesse Hogan wrote perceptively last week, all of this has most likely been a smokescreen for Warne’s frustration with his own cricket. He is still a proud performer at 43 and he must have been embarrassed by his season with the Stars.

His bowling remained up to scratch, but his fielding and catching have made 43-year-olds all around the country feel that they weren’t as past it as they thought they were, and his captaincy – whoever had the © beside his name in the BBL semi-final – had to bear some responsibility for the catastrophic misplacement of fieldsmen. As for his non-batting, was there any more humiliating sight than Lasith Malinga blocking out the last over against the Heat so that Warnie wouldn’t have to play his first BBL innings?

Warne’s professional pride must have been hurt by his performances and, as Hogan wrote, the brain snap against Marlon Samuels and the contradiction-rich manifesto can only be seen as outward signs of that frustration. The chances of him playing in next year’s BBL are about as long as that of a roulette ball landing on red 23.

For all this, Warne’s manifesto won’t and shouldn’t be dismissed. But nor should it be seen as a proxy for Clarke’s private views.

Since he came into the Australian team in Warne’s last days, Clarke has walked the line between friendliness and hero-worship. He’ll listen to Warne respectfully, but make his own mind up. Cricket Australia is handling Warne the same way. Until he puts his hand up to come into the tent in an official capacity – and nowhere in his manifesto does he offer to make a sacrifice from his busy schedule – Warne is just another contributor to the suggestion box.

There are good ideas in there but they need to be sorted out from the Warne-being-Warne malarkey. It’s not too hard. Go to Warne’s official website, look below the picture of Shane and Liz and the coat of arms (a wreathed cricket ball rampant – what the hell’s that about?), and find the post titled ”Where is Australian cricket at?” It’s just above ”Shane Warne leads Team 888poker to the tables at the Aussie Millions Main Event!” and ”888poker Super Stack Series Wins Big!”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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