SPORT OPINION: 'It's time super Shane Warne learned silence can be golden'
From the moment he bowled that ball to Mike Gatting at Old Trafford in 1993 we were spellbound by Shane Keith Warne. Not even his rubbish middle name could prevent us from making him our latest hero.
Coming at the end of an era dominated by the West Indies pace aces, Warne proved that the art of spin wasn’t dead and could in fact prove as attacking and great to watch as any barrage of bouncers. He was brash, fun, different.
Over a career that wasn’t without its controversies (more about that later) it was Warne’s ability with the ball that remained, for us at least, why he was big box office. So it’s with a heavy heart and lump in the throat that we now have to plead with the Aussie legend to remind himself he’s no longer the best spinner on the planet and that, sometimes, less is more.
Since he retired from international cricket a full six years ago Warne has been reluctant to leave centre stage and with every new Tweet and public pronouncement his act is getting more and more tiresome. His latest offering is his manifesto to save Australian cricket. Just two months after the Baggy Greens were hugely unlucky not to draw against South Africa, the best team in the world, the 43-year-old decided the running of his beloved side is in “disarray”. Forget for one moment that in the past 14 months the Aussies have only lost two other series in both Tests and ODIs - hardly the sort of form to induce a frenzied bout of soul-searching - and look at the details of his ‘Warnifesto’.
Published on his very own website, which is adorned with Warne’s very own Alan Partridge-esque crest that has a cricket ball and laurel wreath at its centre (we’re not making this up, go to www.shanewarne.com for proof), his plan to save Australia basically involves sacking the current set up and replacing them with, it just so happens, a lot of his mates. There are roles for Mark Waugh, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Merv Hughes and Ian Chappell. There’s no position however, for the toughest Aussie most opposition cricketers ever faced, Steve Waugh - it’s well known the two didn’t get on.
He then goes on to name his ideal Australian XI in all three forms of the game.
All in all, after taking a whole week to come up with his action points, the most ground-breaking idea he put forward was to “pick your best team and stick with it in all forms”. It’s hardly revolutionary, not least when you consider that’s exactly what the current set up has done, as much as injuries have allowed, in the Test arena for the past year. We don’t for one second doubt that Warne has his former side’s best interests, as he sees them, at heart. But this action seems more about keeping himself in the headlines than it is about ‘saving’ a team that looks like it’s not in any great need of drastic help.
If the former spin king really wanted to help Australia the best way would be to offer his infinite talent and knowledge as a coach. It certainly wouldn’t involve undermining all current Aussie spinners by claiming he’s ready to come out of retirement for the Ashes, as he did over the winter. That’s the sort of egotistical action that can sometimes sum up Warne - he’ll say one thing one minute then do the exact opposite the next.
In 1999 he was sponsored to quit smoking as part of an ad campaign by Nicorette, and was then promptly photographed puffing on a cigarette. It was a similar tale when he was recently snapped doing 165km/h while holidaying in Scotland having fronted an anti-speeding campaign in his native Victoria. He pleads love for his Big Bash side Melbourne Stars a lot, but that didn’t stop him from missing a match on 27 December for “prior commitments” which you learn, when you go to his Twitter feed, involved dancing to Donna Summer’s ‘Hot Stuff’ while wooing his wife Liz Hurley.
Indeed, as hideous as that mental picture is, it’s fair to say, bar his comedy altercation with Marlon Samuels, that was the highlight of his Twenty20 season. In seven matches he managed just four wickets at 39, his fielding was poor, captaincy not much better, and he batted just the once scoring nought not out. Thanks to the wonders of botox, errrm, sorry, we mean facial cream he may look youthful. But during his stint for the Stars he was made to look every bit the 43-year-old full-time Tweeter who’s been away from top-level cricket for too long.
He was obviously not without his faults when magically dominating the game - back then he was a showman always wanting to be the centre of attention. But while under his spell we were prepared to forgive his many flaws - accepting money from a bookmaker, failing a drugs test and owning an overactive texting thumb - because he gave us cricket at its finest and most rewarding to watch. Warne’s still a hero of ours. However, thanks to his endless stream of inane Tweets and manifesto to save a team that’s doing just fine, those moments of brilliance are fast fading into distant memory and being replaced by a man seemingly desperate for attention.
BECKS IS MORE THAN JUST A BRAND
So the David Beckham show has moved into its final act - a five-month stint in France with Paris Saint-Germain. It’s easy to dismiss the former England captain as being more about the ‘Beckham Brand’ and showbusiness than football. But we think that’s doing a huge injustice to the 37-year-old.
Even with the baggage of celebrity he carries around with him, there’s little doubt in our minds that ‘Becks’ still sees himself first and foremost as a footballer. It would be all too easy for him, at this late stage in his career, to either hang his boots up for good or go to China for one last huge payday. However, that’s never appealed to him. As his time with LA Galaxy showed - when he spent his winters playing for AC Milan rather than soaking up some sun - he’s always wanted to prove himself as a player.
Throughout his career he’s been one of the best trainers at whichever club he’s been at, and never sulked or run to the press when dropped. Say what you want about his off-the-pitch activities, but on it he’s a role model footballer.