Shane Warne’s poker skills are on the backburner for the time being, as the man who eats, breathes and sleeps cricket tactics shows the IPL – and its global audience – that he still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve.
The superlatives or adjectives that have not been overused when discussing Shane Warne must be in single figures. 41 years old and still grabbing the headlines for sporting capacity and physical endeavours elsewhere, Warne’s competitive juices are still overflowing.
There is something so childlike about his enthusiasm; one wonders what can possibly satiate his appetite for life. When the real competition on the field gives way completely to more leisurely pursuits, can he cope?
In more than two decades of international cricket, Warne has managed to take the audience on a rollercoaster. Whatever the opposition, the reaction or the odds, he never accepts the seemingly inevitable or lets it invade his mental space.
In Ian Botham’s new book, the author Simon Wilde states that Botham had an almost delusional self-belief that carried him into territories where others would fear to tread. His status was that of a man who could be almost immortal if the Gods were with him. Australia’s greatest leg-spinner managed to achieve phenomenal feats over a greater period of time and in territories that were not available to England’s greatest all-rounder.
Take the Rajasthan Royals. They were the rank outsiders of the inaugural IPL tournament, a side fused with local talent and just the odd sprinkling of international flair. Warne cajoled and motivated them into an 11-match winning streak, which culminated in victory against the might of the Chennai Super Kings in the final.
“The best part about the IPL is, as well as having four or five different cultures in your team, unearthing some of the young Indian players,” Warne said at the time. Amid all the commercialism of the IPL, it was nice to hear that one of the world’s greatest players was giving something back.
Two disappointing years followed for Rajasthan, but Warne’s particular brand of magic has reignited a team that currently lies in the top tier of the table. Anyone who witnessed the press conference after the “weak, soft and embarrassing” collapse against Kolkata would know that the Australian has a mighty hold over his team. Proud to the last, he will not put up with any passengers. In that searingly honest five minutes you could bear witness to the authority which has rubbed off on many of Rajasthan’s alumni. Witness Munaf Patel, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja and Shane Watson.
Warne’s intensity is quite something for a man who has done almost everything achievable. He speaks like a man who eats, breathes and sleeps cricket tactics. Organisation is everything – no stone is left unturned. Why, he’s even let sports psychologist Jeremy Snape into the ranks for team leadership talks. Goodness knows what would have happened if the Australians had made him leader. There appears to be no room for lulls in his life or any concept of wasted time. The desire to win is now allied to a pretty rigorous fitness regime too. That’s something Botham never put before a barrel of fine wine.
“I am 86 kilograms. Lost seven kilograms and close to being the fittest I have ever been,” Warne said in a post on his Twitter feed a few weeks ago. “Fitness and being healthy is now a daily habit, I feel great and never been happier in my life.”
It is not a philosophy that will bring the Victorian back to the longer format, but the IPL has the global audience to see that this man still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve.
The poker can just wait that little bit longer… Cricket365