Shane Warne: Never Test captain, always a legend
A question that will be asked for ages to come, as the greatest leg spinner of all time bows out from cricket, would be:
What would the world have seen had Shane Warne been Australia’s Test captain?
In a career spanning almost 20 years, Warne has divided opinions globally and more so in his native country where some believe he was the messiah of cricket, making leg spin sexy again, while others thought him to be a constant source of embarrassment to the country due to his bad boy behaviour.
He was accused of two of the biggest crimes in the game, when he admitted to taking money from a bookmaker for providing pitch information, and later when he was suspended for a year after testing positive for a diuretic in his system. Warne has also been in the papers for pursuing a number of women, writing about whom will take up pages, and hence I will leave it at this.
Warne has always been in the headlines, be it for the wrong reasons or the right. He announced himself on the field in 1993 when an innocuous looking leg break pitched outside the leg stump of Mike Gatting to clip the off stump leaving everyone on the ground shocked and the batsman bamboozled. Since that delivery, there have been many others, eventually leading to Warne becoming the first bowler in history to cross the 700 mark in Test cricket.
Warne was a presence on the field and in the mind. Each delivery had its own preamble; walking slowly to his mark, curling the ball from hand to hand as he made the batsman wait. And then the slow action to deliver the ball, so simple, so artless - yet no one could tell whether it would be a flipper or a leg break or something else altogether.
The last few years in Test cricket were perhaps his best, as he came back from his suspension as if there was no break, and scaled previously unreached heights. Rated as one of the five greatest cricketers of the 20th century in the year 2000, he bowled better than ever.
Warnes’ captaincy skills came in view as he took over the reins of Rajasthan Royals in the first season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and led a team, written off as hopeless by all, to the inaugural title win. It is a tribute to Warne’s skills as a captain that he was able to build an all conquering team. Though Royals fortunes dipped in the next three seasons, Warne was an ever inspiring captain empowering players and making juniors feel as a part of the team. His team gave him a fitting farewell as they defeated the Mumbai Indians, a team led by the only other person to scale similar heights in this generation.
To answer the question I asked at the start, Warne’s captaincy would have been a boost for the longest format of the game. No match would have been ever lost till the last delivery, no draw ever sought, all gambles taken and retaken.
It is the world’s loss to not have seen Warne as a Test captain, and cricket will miss him.
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