'I really want to do this properly' - Warne
Enticed by the chance to revitalise Australian cricket and do it in his MCG "backyard", Shane Warne has confirmed he will line up for the Melbourne Stars in this summer's Twenty20 Big Bash League.
Warne will play for the duration of the competition, having decided that the initial offers of a one or two-match cameo appearance, made when he was still reticent about returning to cricket after retiring from the IPL earlier this year, would not have been worthwhile.
Calling himself a "young 42", Warne said he had not yet decided whether this would be his only summer with the Stars, but was enthused by the prospect of helping attract younger generations to cricket, not least his own three children.
"There had been a few offers about coming out to play and I was pretty comfortable with where I was at," Warne told a press conference at the MCG. "But then looking back at how lucky I'd been with Australia and Australian cricket and what I'd been able to achieve at the highest level with a great group of players, when Cricket Australia started to launch the BBL, something new with all the city-based teams, it was something quite exciting.
"I thought 'if I'm going to do this, let's do it properly' … it is a great opportunity where I can give something back to cricket, my kids are getting older, they love Twenty20, and the MCG is a great place to play."
"The MCG's been my backyard for 20 years, there's something special here, I love playing here, the people of Melbourne always get behind me, whether it was for the Australian team or Victoria, and the MCG was something that really swayed it for me."
Having slimmed down in recent times, and bowled well for Rajasthan in his final IPL tournament, Warne said he had little doubt he would be able to contribute meaningfully to the Stars' campaign on the field as well as off it.
"If I wasn't confident in my own form and being part of a team I don't think I would've taken up that one or two games to get whacked around a little bit, because that's what happens in T20," he said. "But I think I'm in such good shape at the moment, I feel excited about playing cricket and being involved in a good team.
"I think I can have a significant role, whatever Whitey [Cameron White, captain] and Shippy [Greg Shipperd, coach] want me to have I'm happy to do. I wouldn't go into playing these games without a sense of confidence in my ability that I can go out there to make a difference."
Commercial considerations were mulled over also, and it is useful for the Warne to be back playing in Melbourne when a club bearing his favourite number 23 has just been opened at the nearby Crown Casino. However he denied that money was a major fact in his return, something the Stars chairman Eddie McGuire confirmed by pointing out that the fee agreed for two games would not be growing to accommodate seven or nine matches.
"It's got nothing to do with money, if it was about money me coming and playing cricket I'd still be playing in the IPL - I retired from that," Warne said. "This is something that I'm passionate about, something that I think is unique to Australian cricket, city-based cricket teams are something new and that enticed me.
"My kids that are 14, 12 and 10 can't really remember dad playing cricket that much, but now they might be able to remember me playing at the MCG. With the seven games there's a salary cap and all that, so it's nothing to do with the money, otherwise I'd be playing in the IPL still."
Warne will now be in the slightly incongruous position of playing his matches head-to-head with the national team's Test matches against India, much as his mentor Ian Chappell did during World Series Cricket from 1977 to 1979. He maintains a sense of optimism that all cricket formats are helping, not detracting from, one another.
"All the versions of the game continue to help [each other]. T20 I think has helped the whole game of cricket," Warne said. "There's a place definitely for Test cricket, T20 and one day cricket at the moment, just finding that right balance and not doing too much of each.
"If you have to face Glenn McGrath in a couple of overs in a Test match and you needed 20 to win you'd slog him, in a T20 game you'd slog him as well, you get more confidence in all the forms of the game to smash him around. So each version of the game helps each one, and it makes all the versions more entertaining. I don't see a conflict in that at all, I think it'll all help together and it'll be an exciting summer."
Inevitably, Warne was asked about his high-profile fiancé Liz Hurley, brushing off the notion that he was returning to cricket so she could watch him play in Australia, but admitted she might not be a great fan of the Stars' green strip.
"She calls them costumes that we play in," he said. "I'm not sure what she'll think about the green costume..."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo