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Warne’s Genius Revolutionized Legspin

By Orin Davidson
He was never christened “Hollywood” for nothing.

Shane Warne has been the ultimate performer and more, for 14 years of cricket mastery.

Not every cricketer who earned a Test cap could lay claim to the title as best leg spinner ever.

Nor can every cricketer live the life of a celebrity and keep piling up the wickets like Warne, who performed like the creator of dismissals.

Up to the time of his announced retirement this week, the Australian was continuing to rack up match winning performances at the ripe old age of 37 years, just like he did at his peak.

He bagged his umpteenth four-wicket haul at Adelaide and promptly told the world he was quitting at the of the current Ashes series.

The decision sent shock waves around the world.

To the English, it seemed incredible a player still at the peak of his powers would end it all so abruptly.

More so after he proved himself still fit enough and skillful enough to condemn them to defeat in a match they controlled for four days.

But that’s the Aussie way of handling their cricket affairs.

They pander to the paradoxical that is both bemusing and incomprehensible to the rest of the world.

They prepare harder and play harder than any other team for success, yet never seem to enjoy the fruits of their success to the maximum.

One never hears of extravagant celebrations after any World Cup triumph or world record achievement.

England’s bus parade though the streets of London after reclaiming the Ashes after 36 years last summer, was viewed with some measure of disdain Down Under.

They probably have too many outstanding performers and Warne is the latest of a string of Aussie superstars to abruptly announce his retirement without leaving room for a proper farewell tour.

But he remains the most accomplished of his type from a country that never ceases to produce great players including the world’s most decorated batsmen ever.

Sir Donald Bradman has a Test average no other player will likely match, much less surpass.

And Warne is one wicket away from posting 700 wickets which no bowler of this generation will ever match , except possibly one.

Without him it is doubtful to comprehend Australia dominating the world like they did the last 10 years.

Warne’s former captain Steve Waugh rates him the biggest match winner he ever saw or followed, which exemplifies the killer instinct in the Victoria-born leg spinner.

Like many super talented individuals, he had an inauspicious career start.

His debut innings unflatteringly read one wicket for 151 runs and he had to wait eight innings to record his first five-wicket haul.

But it was the type of harsh beginning he needed to develop the hunger that made Warne the phenomenon he is.

The Victorian’s hunger was only one component of his success.

His many weapons made him into the wicket-taking menace he became.

No one before him worked as hard to develop the variety of leg break, flipper, top spinner and googly he possesses.

Yet without the accuracy he commands, Warne’s tally would’ve amounted to half the number it is presently.

His former teammate Jason Gillespie probably went overboard by stating Warne is the best player ever, but his mentor Terry Jenner hit the nail on the head when he pinpointed Warne’s accuracy.

“He just has that capacity, unlike any other wrist spinner we’ve seen, to put the ball in the danger area ball after ball after ball. His special talent has been to spin the ball and at the same time be accurate.”

Mike Gatting, whose dismissal to the best leg break ever delivered that became legendary, is not shy to pronounce on the man who caused his biggest embarrassment on the field.

“I suppose I can say that ‘I was there’ at the moment he first indicated his potential to the wider world. There or thereabouts, anyway. Thanks to him, there are many more leg-spinners in the game. We may not see his like again.”

Even Anil Kumble, who by now should be confirmed as the greatest spinner from the land of spinners, wished he had Warne’s ability.

One of the biggest regrets in Australia’s cricket is their refusal to bestow the leg spinning master with the Test team’s captaincy.

Mark Taylor who many rate as Australia’s shrewdest captain, believes Warne is one of the game’s greatest thinkers. Legendary paceman Dennis Lillee agrees too, but the politics won out.

Yet geniuses never come straight laced.

There is always color in their lives and unfortunately the Australia Cricket Board could not come to accept Warne’s fetish for the fairer sex.

Or his use of an illegal masking drug which caused one of few career setbacks in the form of a one-year ban, in a stellar career.

At the end of the day, Warne will be remembered more for his Test wicket haul that is sure to eat well into the 700 mark after his remaining two Tests.

He therefore deserves nothing less than the greatest respect for being the genius only he can be.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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