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Mr. Warne, Take A Bow

By Ameya Lonkar


The Christmas vacations had been utterly boring. I had nothing to do; of course there were errands to run but nothing fun. I was so bored that I even voluntarily started arranging the utensils. On a particularly weary afternoon I turned on the television and started mindlessly sweeping through channels; till then I had completely forgotten about a certain Star Cricket channel. Now much to my joy, there it was, a live match!!!! Who gives a damn which teams were playing; it was a friggin’ cricket match. It was a Big Bash League match played between two teams whose names I don’t remember. 

I put the remote aside and started watching the match. The match itself does not matter to me now, and I ain’t going to talk it. I was overjoyed to see the King of Spin, the great Shane Warne operating. The commentators had just pulled out a stat, the XYZ stadium where the match was being played had recorded its highest attendance in the ongoing match and that may well be due to Shane Warne agreeing to play the match. Man this guy is a real crowd puller. The match was going on but I kept waiting for the Wizard of Oz’s over. My wait finally came to an end somewhere near the 11th over of the innings.

Shane Warne had ball in his hands. He had a mic on him and was chatting with the commentators upstairs. So whatever he was saying could be heard on television. That was a rare opportunity; you don’t know much what the bowlers are planning unless you are hopelessly good at lip reading or if the stump mic catches a word or two. But here he was live on the mic walking the commentators through his tactics. Before the first ball was bowled I saw how meticulously he was setting the fields, moving around the fielders so that they were just in the places he wanted them to be, covering for all angles he was working on. Just before the first ball was bowled the commentators upstairs asked him “Warney, how are ya feeling?” He replied “Don’t know I’ll let you know after the first one”. After the first ball he replied “I think I am good to go”. 

It was then I thought I could be in for a real treat here. Now I can say that it was truly a treat. Though it was not the foot long turning of the ball or his endless bag of tricks but what was on display was the sheer class of the great man and his experience. At forty years of age no one expects him to turn the ball squarely as he used to do in his heydays, even he was aware of the limitations. Though the turn was missing the guile was still there. Frequently he tossed the ball up above the eye line of the batsman tempting him to go after his bowling lest he should mistime it and holes it out in the deep or misses the ball and leaves the clean-up job up to the keeper. The Wily Old Fox still had the thinking cap on. Though not as pronounced he was mixing up his subtle variations and was relying mainly on the variations in his speed. What was even more pleasing to see was the respect he commanded from the batsman. Though he wasn’t “The Shane Warne” he used to be seeing the batsmen playing his balls with respect was a treat to eye. 

The most apt instance to show the class of the Great One was a particular streak of four balls in one of his overs in the match. Ball one he spoke into mic that he would toss the ball, toss the ball he did. The next one was a bit flatter one. Again he prompted that he would toss the ball up. He did exactly that. Maybe he had gauged the batsman by then, spun a web safely around him only to devour him on his next move. He said he would pitch the ball further, he had the ball in his hand, strolling towards the crease, with the tongue sweeping across his lips, his eyes firmly set on batsman trying to gauge his move and with an the ever so casual action he delivered the ball. The ball was travelling through the air, the batsman got his feet moving, the batsman has walked across his stumps only to discover the ball has been pitched a fraction fuller, the batsman makes a futile attempt at sweeping the ball. The ball lands on leg stump line turns and hits the top of off stump. The batsman had been foxed, the prey slain, the Wily Fox delivering yet another master class. The stadium is up in celebration, all the team mates gathering around Warney, giving a pat on the back and surely having goose bumps on the back of their necks to bask in the aura of the true champion. 

The wicket that he took was the only one in the match. He returned with figures of 1 for 19 (not entirely sure, but something of that sorts). Though this is not the best of his performances I just wanted to put forth the fact that despite the tired fingers, despite the absence of those spinning cobras, despite the match being a T20 game (the format touted for the youth) despite everything, Shane Warne was delivering the goods for his team solely on his experience. It gets interesting to see veterans operate when they are past their best, when they have exhausted a good portion of their abilities all that remains with them is the distilled product of their vast experience. After seeing the performance I say it was a pleasure watching you bowl Mr. Warne as it always had been for all these years and I hope to see more of you in future.     

 

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