Wish I could spin like him - Kumble
Anil Kumble, the other great legspinner of the modern era, said that Shane Warne had contributed immeasurably to reviving spin bowling around the world, though he predicted that Muttiah Muralitharan would soon overhaul whatever record Warne leaves behind.
"There's going to void in Australian and world cricket," said Kumble, addressing the press corps after a training session in Durban. "I have always admired him and followed his bowling closely. I'll definitely miss watching him bowl on television. He had a fantastic career. When Fred Truman reached 300 Test wickets, people thought it would be tough for someone else to replicate that feat. Warne has 700 wickets, that's an amazing achievement."
When Warne and Kumble emerged in the early '90s, spin bowling was stuck in a rut, and Kumble had no doubt that Warne's skill and flamboyance had played its part in some many young kids taking up wrist-spin. "Not just Australian cricket, cricket in general will miss him," he said. "Budding cricketers took up leg-spin after watching him, everyone wanted to become a Warne. It's a little sad that the younger generation of today will not be able to see him in action."
Kumble himself has more than 500 wickets, but he said that there had never been any intense personal rivalry. "I've always enjoyed meeting up with Warney, and sharing thought on spin bowling," he said. "He has been a very dear friend. There's been no extra competition between us. He tried to ensure that he took wickets against us and helped Australia win. I tried to ensure that I took wickets against the Aussies and helped India win. In that sense, there has always been a competition, but nothing extra."
Though they were markedly different in their approach and style, Kumble admitted that if there was one thing he envied, it was Warne's ability to give the ball a good rip. "If there is one thing he has that I would love to have, it is the ability to spin the ball the way he does," he said. "Warney has been very open about what he thinks and how he bowls. Not many opposition bowlers would say what they bowl and how they do it. I am very happy to have played with him and competed with him. I have learnt a lot from him, not just by talking to him but by watching the way he bowls."
Kumble wasn't too surprised by the timing of Warne's announcement, as he stands on the threshold of 700 Test wickets with the Ashes having been won back. "I'm sure he had the Ashes in mind, that was probably the goal he had set himself," said Kumble. "I thought he might come out of one-day retirement and have a crack at the World Cup, but he has had a long career and his fair share of injuries.
"He's someone who deserves to finish in style. He will get to 700 wickets in front of his home crowd, and I'm sure Australia are looking to win in Sydney, not merely to defeat England but to give Warney a fitting farewell."
Kumble said that breaching the 700-barrier would be a fitting final act for Warne, though he reckoned that Murali would go past sooner, rather than later. "There are a lot more Test matches played these days than used to be earlier. Teams get to play between 12 and 14 Tests a year, Australia probably a little more. With the quality he [Warne] has, he's bound to get wickets. The benchmark has changed over the years, the current benchmark is 700, but the one closest to him, Murali, will change the entire scene very soon."
As for what Warne leaves behind, Kumble had few doubts. "Cricket will be poorer in his absence," he said. "Even in South Africa, kids are trying to bowl legspin like him. That's the legacy he will leave behind."
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo