Perhaps fittingly, the best spinner of his generation (and maybe even in the history of the game) will be up against the premier batsman of the same era as Warne’s Rajasthan Royals take on Sachin Tendulkar’s Mumbai Indians.
Whilst Warne has become a bit of a caricature in recent times – the celebrity girlfriend, the orange fake tan and hawking more products than a lorry-load of travelling salesmen - he has been one of the true greats and has changed the game of cricket. Not many can say that.
Even as a Pom, we’ve nothing but admiration for Warne the cricketer – someone who proved as much of a talisman to Australia as Ian Botham once was to England in Ashes encounters. And like Beefy, Warney never seemed to be far from controversy – be it sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll as well as bottles of peroxide and of course a penchant for piling on the pounds.
Rewind to Adelaide 2006 and despite his powers having dimmed significantly, it was Warne who truly believed, Warne who inspired his team-mates, and Warne who psychologically harried England to fold so dramatically on that final day. He is the best captain Australia never had.
Warne held a spell over England right from the moment he bowled ‘that’ ball to Mike Gatting – even in the 2005 Ashes he was the standout player on either side. And it was not just his skill with the ball that had England in a trance for nigh on fifteen years. The sledges, the supposed new deliveries and the whole theatre that was part of every ball Warne bowled all played a part.
Suddenly, with the success of Warne, every international side saw spin as being as important as pace and that made for a more absorbing spectacle for cricket fans. And with apologies to Murali supporters, Warne is the best twirler we’ve seen in either Test or limited overs cricket.
Yes, he had flaws – big flaws – but you could never accuse Warne of being boring and he will forever be remembered along with the other great spinners of history (Rhodes, O’Reilly, Verity and yes Murali amongst others) in the cricketing pantheon.
Whilst we will continue to cringe with everyone else at some of his antics – the public affair with Elizabeth Hurley really is vomit inducing; we also look forward to hearing more of his honest, ridiculously optimistic and unique form of commentary.
So, as he rides off into the sunset astride the ghastly Hurley, it seems it really is time to bid farewell to Shane Warne the cricketer.
Margherita pizzas all round then.
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