Australia in England, 2005 June 8, 2005

Warne unveils painting at Lord's


Warne: painting © Getty Images

Shane Warne joined a select band of cricketers when he unveiled a portrait of himself at Lord's on Tuesday. The oil-on-linen painting of the legspinner will be hung in the ground's famous pavilion where it will be only the third portrait of an Australia player - late cricket greats Sir Donald Bradman and Keith Miller are the two others - to go on display.

"It's taken a lot of sittings with Fanny. It's a privilege for me. I feel very proud of the achievement. It (Lord's) is a fantastic ground," said Warne, after unveiling the portrait by London-based artist Fanny Rush. The portrait will initially be hung in the Pavilion's Long Room, meaning Warne, the world's leading Test wicket-taker, is set to walk past it when he takes the field for the first Ashes Test against England at Lord's starting on July 21.

Ever since bowling the 'ball of the century' to dismiss Mike Gatting at Old Trafford in 1993, Warne has tormented England batsmen. "Some of the members might want to throw darts at it," he joked. "But seriously, I think they have respect for what I've achieved."

Warne was more concerned about the reaction of his Australian team-mates. "I hope they don't let Brett Lee anywhere near it with a black pen because I might end up with a moustache like Merv's (Hughes's)." The former Australia batsman Mark Waugh recently suggested his old team-mate's powers were waning. "I don't think Warney is quite the bowler he was five to to 10 years ago," Waugh wrote in the Melbourne Age.

"He's still very good but he relies more on accuracy, subtle variation and reputation these days than on vicious ripping leg-breaks and unplayable flippers." But Warne, 35, countered by saying that he was still at the top of his game. "Mark's a great friend of mine and he's got to make a few quid somehow, even by joining you blokes (the media).

"He's got a great cricket brain and he's entitled to his opinion. But the way I look at it, the last 25-30 Tests, I've played some of the best cricket of my career and I haven't played against Bangladesh. My role in the team has changed, bowling behind Lee, (Jason) Gillespie, (Glenn) McGrath and (Michael) Kasprowicz.

"We've been bowling first a lot lately and that means I've been bowling on day one, two and three wickets. Under Mark Taylor we'd always bat first and so I'd be bowling on day four of five when it turns more."

Warne has been in England since the start of the season, captaining Hampshire, currently top of the First Division of the County Championship. He is the county's joint leading bowler so far this season alongside Chris Tremlett. Tremlett, the young seamer, also has 35 wickets including a hat-trick against Nottinghamshire that sealed an improbable win last weekend.

"Chris Tremlett is dynamite at the moment and it wouldn't surprise me if he played against Australia at some stage this season," said Warne. He has also repeatedly called for Hampshire team-mate Kevin Pietersen to be given a Test debut.

But the South African-born batsman was left out of England's recent 2-0 series win against Bangladesh and Warne, while refusing to talk up his county colleague's chances further, said that he should have played.

Rush's portrait shows Warne in cricket whites tossing up a ball in the air. "The painting took 10 months because Shane went back to Australia," Rush said. "He was a good sitter. I didn't feel intimidated but I got the sense he's a great strategist."

Adam Chadwick, the curator of collections for Lord's owners Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), said there was a simple reason for the commission. "He (Warne) is one of the greats of the game, the leading Test wicket-taker. Unfortunately, not long after the commission, he had his break (a one-year drugs ban) but now he's back and bowling as well as ever."