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October 5, 2004
Terry Jenner doesn't mince his words. Here he speaks about the two men, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble, who have the power to win games on their own with their wisdom and experience.
Is Shane in the best phase of his career?
Shane's very, very best years were between 1993 and 1997 where he took those enormous amount of Test wickets. However, after his recent 12 months off, the best he bowled in a long time was in Sri Lanka where he spun the ball and looked very good. Today he is still bowling better than anyone else has bowled -not spinning the ball as much as he did, as often as he did; but variation, change of pace and a lot of subtleties have come with experience.
So has he gone down from the peaks he reached in that purple period you mentioned?
The answer is simple: he underwent a shoulder reconstruction. Prior to that, he spent a lot of time having injections in his shoulder. So he went through a long stage of not being fully fit. In a sense that is the most important part of Shane's action. Apart from his fingers and wrist, it is his shoulder which he was unable to fully utilize. Then he had the operation and that took a long time to recover from. In fact, the surgeon who carried out the operation said that it's common with javelin throwers, and the majority don't return. So Shane returned, he did struggle for a while and then just pressed on with his game. And, prior to that, the tendon in his finger had to be operated on - all this in the latter part of the nineties. After that, when he started playing again he dropped a simple catch and broke his spinning finger - which is not a pretty shape now. So he has had to re-adjust the feel of his fingers. He has had several of those injuries along with the arthroscopy on his knee, all of which have taken some sort of a toll. He hasn't deteriorated in the true sense of the master of the craft, but injuries have caused adjustments to the way he plays, the way he bowls.
Do you fear any further injuries could disrupt again?
I don't think so. He is 35, very fit and his shoulder is very strong. The only thing that could go wrong now would be accidental, which is like the last injury - the broken finger - a freakish one. That was the second time he had injured his fingers, so he had to readjust his thinking, his feel in his fingers on two occasions. That's a hell of a climb when you rely on the fingers and the wrist to impart the spin on the ball.
What are the things you guys worked during the one-year ban?
We worked on alignment, on spinning the ball, on confidence, on not being defensive but positive and attacking. Generally we worked on rebuilding his confidence because after a gap of a year, it doesn't matter who you are, you still wonder whether you are going to do it like you did before.
Do you think those things are working now?
Well, he got those 27 wickets in Sri Lanka, so you will have to say that it worked.
During his pomp he had this ability to drift the ball phenomenally. How come that has stopped?
It depends on the height of his arm. There was a period there, just before his suspension, when his arm was quite low, probably bordering on being as low as Stuart MacGill's. And when the arm is down that low he doesn't get the same sort of action on the ball that allows that curve. When he gets the shoulder in the customary position - which is up and over, and not around - that's when we see the curve. In Sri Lanka it was curving where he had that lovely action similar to the one he had back in 1995 that was beautiful to watch.
So what are his stock balls at the moment?
It's still the legbreak, and that will always remain his stock ball. Then there are the natural changes of pace. He has now got the very deceptive slider which is getting him a lot of lbws. That is turning out to be the master ball for him. Then, he just occasionally throws in the topspinner and the googly because they are still part of his repertoire. And the flipper - he doesn't nearly as often because it has a lot to do with the broken finger and the hand. It is very much a confidence ball, and if you got something that doesn't feel right then you probably wouldn't bowl it. But I am still optimistic that he will work out a way of bowling it with this disjointed fourth finger on his hand.
Now about India tour: in his six Tests there, Shane has 20 wickets at 52.25. You must have seen the previous two tours, so what he was trying then and what went wrong?
In a similar vein, you could say the same about Kumble when he didn't do good either when he came over here. Then there is the fact that Muralitharan has also struggled in India. Probably you will have to say that, and I don't use this an excuse but as a statement of fact, on neither occasion that he has toured India has he been at full fitness in terms of the shoulder and the confidence not being there. The first time, he was having a lot of injections to get through, and the second time he had the finger operation and was finding his way back. Perhaps this is the time, maybe, to assess him on the best he has to offer because he is fit; it's only the damaged spinning finger which may temper his repertoire a little bit. He is very optimistic and I am certainly hopeful we can see Warne at his best.
What should be his approach this time then?
Exactly like he bowled in Sri Lanka - if he can approach it that way, be attacking, be positive, don't be defensive: that is the answer. The difficulty, of course, for Shane, is that he won't have anyone at the other end. However, if you know Warne at all you will know he will carry that load mentally and feel responsible, and again it might temper his aggression. It's an awkward scenario: he will bowl the overs for his captain, and may bowl more overs than he should but that's what he will do, that's the way he is.
It would be a brave man that would suggest Australia could win it. I would like to predict 2-2.
What is the best way to bowl to the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid, VVS and Ganguly?
You have to spin the ball. What else can you do? I am sure that will test Laxman, Tendulkar and co. as against when he was there before where he mainly was just pushing the ball through and they were able to read the length and play from there. He has learnt from that; he is 35 and a terrific student of the game and he recognizes that to be successful in India he can't do what he did on his previous trips.
He can only supply what's in his armoury, which would mean working very hard for his wickets provided someone at the other end can bowl really good spells to keep it tight.
That means the lack of a proper spin-partner would have done him harm?
It has made his life difficult for sure. Its not the first time that he has had that scenario. When you think about those 530-odd wickets, and the percentage of wickets he has got in India, for him it's a challenge. If he can get McGrath, Gillespie and Kasprowicz to keep it tight, then I think it's unlikely that the other two spinners will get much of a look-in, unless for some reason the pitches are really substandard, in which case they will be obliged to play a couple of spinners, otherwise Australia will go with only one.
Do you think the Aussies should go in with two spinners?
I am not going to say they should because you have one spinner (Nathan Hauritz) who has taken 16 wickets last year at more than 60 and the other one (Cameron White) is just feeling his way. If you went with two spinners then I would say that you would have to go with Cameron White, but again he is very young and inexperienced for those conditions.
You said it would do Hauritz more harm if he was picked up?
Nathan Hauritz is a young man, who has, unfortunately, developed his craft in the limited-over game. So what he has to be able to do if he plays a Test match is bowl 20 or 30 overs. And I sense that, even though they felt that he was the best finger spinner in the country, his record is one that makes it difficult. He is only a baby and I don't think throwing him to the wolves on this tour of India will give him much of a chance in the future. They've got to think carefully. But if it's a poor pitch, that will bring Hauritz into the game because he has just got to bowl line and length. And with only one game before the first Test, you would never see these guys (Hauritz only played the game as Warne opted out and White couldn't figure in the XI). They could be like (Stuart) MacGill, who went there and didn't bowl a ball.
How about MacGill - another miss?
He is the second best spin bowler in Australia, and on that score he should've been picked. However, if Warne hasn't been successful to this point in India, then the chances of MacGill striking aren't good. Also, if you have the two leggies together and it's not working, then it is going to be expensive. So they are thinking that a finger spinner can tie an end up. In the past you had Colin Miller and Gavin Robertson doing that job and they had some years and some kilometres under their belt. So it's a difficult scenario. I guess of the 15, twelve will play and the three youngsters are there for experience.
Turning to India, what are the things that have always impressed you about Anil Kumble?
The fact that he has got a giant heart, he never ever wants to give the ball up. I have that strong vision in my mind of him bowling in the West Indies with a broken jaw and bandages all round his face. I saw that on the television; there's been a lot of other bowlers that haven't taken the field and here's Anil Kumble with a broken jaw trying to help his team win a Test match. Then when he was here last summer against a pretty formidable Australian side and they took to him, but he stuck to his game. He didn't bowl like he did on the previous tour, where he put men all around the boundary and tried to be defensive and get them out. And in the end, even if he got six for 160-odd in Sydney, he was still doing his job. That again stuck in my mind.
The other thing was, with the way he bowled in India it was not possible for that style of bowling to work in Australia. And for him to alter the sequence of his deliveries from his armoury, that showed that he is clever and a good learner.
Last year in Adelaide you worked with him for a session: what did you dwell on?
I had a terrific hour-and-a-half with him. It was mostly about what I just mentioned above about changing the sequence, bowling more wrong `uns and topspinners, getting his wrong `un more as it spins, use the faster one as a surprise ball and not as a stock ball. We discussed what his stock balls were in India: the quicker slider, throwing the occasional topspinner, wrong `un and also the legspinner that is sort of developing. Out here he reversed that.
He was looking to bowl with a lower arm because Shane bowled with a lower arm, and I said to him at that time, "You and Shane are different bowlers. You both have different strengths. Let's look at your strengths - you have got 300-plus Test wickets bowling a certain way. Just let's use the sequence of your deliveries differently." We also talked about alignment, as he gets his feet out of the line a bit, which he was aware of.
Has he become more predictable?
He has developed a legbreak which, unless people haven't been watching it closely, you can see that it actually turns. And the minute it turns and runs away to slip you can't continue to push up the line and play him like an inswing bowler. I would imagine he might throw in his legbreaks pretty early which would bring the other balls into the game. Getting used to his slider is only any good if he is not spinning it away from the bat with other delieveries. So if he bowls the ball that spins away then the slider becomes pretty effective because they start to play away to cover the spin and may get trapped lbw or bowled through the gate.
Any result for the series?
I will tell you what's important for Australia: we are playing India, and England are touring South Africa. Coming up next year Australia play England in England. What will be perfect is for both sides to be undefeated when they get to that series, that would make it an absolute blockbuster. Having said that, England have got a better chance of beating South Africa than Australia have of beating India because records don't lie, and it's been a battle royal. McGrath, being sort of at the end of his career, could swing the series. So, if McGrath can find one more really good series in him, then that would give Warne the support at the other end and Australia can win the series. If both of them aren't able to do that job then it would be a brave man that would suggest Australia could win it. I would like to predict 2-2.
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