“Here it is!”
“It was tucked between two of my rolls of flab.”
As a commentator, Shane Warne‘s all that’s good about Australians: he’s straightforward, honest and not afraid to say what he’s thinking.
Warne’s at his best describing spin bowling, but it’s also fascinating to hear about life in the Australia team. Without actually saying that he thought any particular player was a bit of a dick, he lets you know those he didn’t get on with and the fairly simple reasons why. You generally agree with him.
Mike Atherton asked him about the occasion when the Aussies went to watch Lleyton Hewitt at Wimbledon and wore their Australian baggy green caps. “I wanted to puke at that point,” said Atherton.
Warne was at pains to underline that not everybody had been so attired.
“Justin Langer and Gilchrist and Steve Waugh wore their green baggy cap, but not all of us did, Athers. We were asked to and some of us drew the line and said: Mate, we’re at the tennis. We don’t need to wear our baggy green cap at the tennis to say we like Australia.”
Sky Sports’ coverage needs him as well, because it’s a bit relentlessly English and needs some breadth of opinion.
Shane Warne’s head has long been round and red, but it seems to be getting ever more inflated and ever more vivid in colour.
It looks like a spacehopper.
Well that’s made the County Championship a damn sight easier to predict.
Mushtaq Ahmed has played more of a part in deciding the competition than any other single player in recent years. He’s being allowed to play for Sussex despite competing in the naughty Twenty20 league, the ICL. He’ll be available for the whole season and will doubtless take heaps of wickets like usual.
Shane Warne‘s competing in the perfectly acceptable Twenty20 league which despite its official status clashes with a good chunk of the English domestic season. He wouldn’t be turning out for Hampshire much because of that and his ‘poker commitments’ so he’s decided to retire instead.
So Hampshire are further weakened. Their new captain will be Dimitri Mascarenhas who is himself missing a load of matches because he’s appearing in the IPL. We’re glad that we’re not Paul Terry, Hampshire’s team manager. He might have to get his pads down from the loft at this rate.
Are You A Left-Arm Chinaman? will shortly be celebrating its first birthday. In honour of its bias towards spin and to join in the festivities, we’re contributing this.
We thought we’d write about our favourite spinner. So who is that? Well, it’s probably Monty Panesar, but this doesn’t quite sit right. Monty can’t be our favourite spinner of all time, after all, because we already loved spin bowling when he arrived.
Who then? Eddie Hemmings, Peter Such, Robert Croft? No. Any spinner whose wicket-taking delivery was ‘the one that goes straight on’ isn’t for us.
What about Tuffers then? Phil ‘The Cat’ Tufnell – a man the selectors never wanted to pick but occasionally had to, because every now and again he’d single-handedly win a Test match. Mike Atherton was certain of Tufnell’s worth and his autobiography (definitely one of the better ones) depicts a constant battle to get the bowling attack that he wants, of which Tufnell is a major part.
But something’s still awry. For just those selectorial reasons, we never saw enough of Tufnell to form a lifetime devotion to the art of spin, although he surely played a part. So what spin bowler did have that sort of impact on us?
No. It couldn’t be. He can’t be our favourite spinner. We hate him. Everyone hates him. Believe us, we were more surprised than you, but we’ve had to accept it: Shane Warne‘s our favourite spin bowler.
We’re currently working our way through a review copy of If It Was Raining Palaces, I’d Get Hit By The Dunny Door by Nigel Henderson. At one point during the infamous Adelaide Test, an Australian sitting next to Henderson in the crowd turns to him and says: “He’s great Warnie, isn’t he? But I can’t stand the man, he’s a total cockhead. If he walked into my local, I’d smack him straight in the face.”
Now at least that guy had the benefit of Warne doing great things for his team, rather than against them. Imagine how we feel. The guy’s ‘a total cockhead’ and he’s humiliating the team you support, yet still you want to watch every ball, because you admire the guy so much. Bastard.
There are other spinners we love, but Warne’s the one who taught us that spin bowling’s a great way of turning a match your way and he also taught us that while a batsman can be intimidated by fast bowling, he can never look quite so bewildered and humiliated as he can when he’s being worked-over by a brilliant spin bowler.
Spin bowling’s bloody brilliant. Batsmen play at balls and miss them by two feet and they leave balls that hit the stumps. The deliveries come thick and fast and the fielders are all crowded round like a makeshift human batting net.
To spin! [Raises mug of tea, spilling contents over keyboard slightly.]