January 11, 2013

Australian cricket

First glimpse of Shane Warne

Philip Brown
 © Philip Brown
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I remember my first encounter with Shane Warne. It was 1993 and Australia were about to play their first match of the Ashes tour against an England Amateurs XI at Radlett, just north of London. Warne was signing autographs for children. I took some photographs and spoke to him about his ambitions for taking wickets in the upcoming Ashes series. I think I might have suggested something about him taking 20 wickets in the series and Warne appeared quite excited about getting anywhere near that figure.

I admit it wasn't the most interesting verbal exchange in the history of rivetting verbal exchanges but the point is I remember the first time I photographed and spoke to the bloke. Warne, I think it is fair to say, divides opinion. Some people adore him and some dislike him but you can't help respect Warne for everything he's achieved in the game. Personally, I do like him.

As an aside, I think this Radlett match was the only time I took my dog Molly to a cricket match I was photographing. She didn't enjoy being tethered to a fence and would communicate her displeasure by barking constantly. So apologies to anyone who sat in the posh tent at Radlett that day and were disturbed by a demented, but loveable, barking dog. I went to the other end of the ground which had better photographic backgrounds and was also significantly quieter.

It's amazing to think that 20 years on Warne is a cricket legend and is still playing in the Big Bash League that is going on in the southern hemisphere. It seems he has had a tiny Twitter spat with the Adelaide franchise. Last week he was having an on-field war with Marlon Samuels in which he threw a ball at Samuels who retaliated in kind by tossing his bat towards Warne. Warne was fortunate that Samuels is not particularly accomplished at tossing cricket bats at a human-sized target. This could well become an Olympic sport within the next 50 years. Who knows?

Last month there were stories being written about Warne making a comeback for this year's Ashes series. Unlikely ? Very. Impossible? Put it this way, there's more chance of Susan Boyle* joining Girls Aloud. Sorry, I've digressed again.

The three cricketers I've probably taken the most photographs of over the years must be Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff and Shane Warne. When matches start drifting you can find your lens almost aiming itself at these players.

Warne coming on to bowl in a game would give me a silent nudge to concentrate more as anything could happen. I've been at the Oval and seen him collect his 400th Test wicket, I've been at Old Trafford to photograph him dismissing his 600th victim and I've been at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for his 700th. I was also in Sydney after his retirement from Test cricket when he wandered around the ground with his children.

Once at Hampshire when Warne was promoting some new fangled online poker game (cricket poker anyone?) he bowled to me in the nets. I was never quite good enough to be selected for my country but came closer than most Australians in 1989. I was one of only a handful of Australians in the ground as the national team played Warwickshire and I think Australia had only nine fit players. I was expecting a tap on the shoulder asking me to take the field but it just didn't happen. I did wear Steve Waugh's whites in a press match once and remember returning them to him covered in mud, after they were laundered. Waugh wasn't exactly famous for his smile and I definitely didn't witness one that day. Anyway, after Warne bowled me a third delivery at Southampton I stupidly shouted, "Is that all you've got?" before facing the fourth ball, which turned out to be a bouncer.

The photo I'm displaying with this shocking ramble is a shot I took of Warne way back on that Ashes tour in 1993. It was a long time before digital photography and this photograph was shot on film. That meant a relatively long wait between taking the photograph and seeing the negative after it was developed, fixed, dried and sleeved in that order. So there would have been many hours of wondering whether I had captured the image successfully or not.

This was, I'm pretty sure, the only time I saw Warne open his mouth like this before bowling. He probably did it a few times in his career… while bowling I mean. He obviously opened his mouth to eat (especially in 1997 when he was quite a lot larger) and to smoke during his playing days.

No doubt Warne pulled a face to just attempt to distract the England batsman. He had lots of tricks in his armoury and used them all during his long and not quite completed career. I was more than happy with the image. The Telegraph used it with a wrap-up of the series in which the sheikh of tweak actually ended up capturing 34 England wickets.

Basically Warne makes pictures. He's photogenic. Point your camera with an appropriate lens attached at him and in a relatively short space of time you will have a useful, interesting and possibly publishable image.

I don't know what he's got exactly but as a photographer I wish more cricketers had 'it'.

* Warne even had his own prime-time television show a couple of years ago in Australia called "Warnie" and he actually interviewed Susan Boyle. Just thought I'd mention it.

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An Australian freelance cricket photographer based in England, Philip Brown has photographed over 150 Test matches around the world

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Keywords: Legends, Nostalgia

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Posted by Ankur on (January 26, 2013, 13:43 GMT)

Frankly speaking with the latest spat at Big Bash , Warne lost all respect that i somehow saved for him . How kids and budding cricketer will take his irresponsible act? Not an iota of doubt in his skills , its just that he could have behaved more like what cricket is known as 'The Gentleman Game ' !

Posted by Dan on (January 13, 2013, 18:05 GMT)

Great article about the great man. Love him or hate him, he made an indelible impact on the game and how it is played. Like John McEnroe, not every player has the same attitude of, say, Roger Federer. Great as Roger is, tennis would be a lot less entertaining if all the players were as genteel as him. Cricket would have been the poorer without Shane. Wonderful picture of the image, indelibly engraved on the minds of many batsmen and must also have driven fear into their hearts.

Posted by 07sanjeewakaru on (January 12, 2013, 10:53 GMT)

Just listen to the commentary of Gatting ball in the BBC archive.It's just hilarious. Warnies come once a century..no!once a millenium...

Posted by James B on (January 12, 2013, 10:05 GMT)

Interesting stuff - keep 'em coming

Posted by Paul on (January 12, 2013, 2:55 GMT)

Thanks Philip, I enjoyed learning more of your craft.

Posted by Vikram Pyati on (January 11, 2013, 18:43 GMT)

I remember Warne doing the same thing ( opening his mouth to distract the batsmen ) during the epic partnership between Dravid and Laxman in the Kolkata test, while bowling to Dravid. Its another matter that Dravid defended it calmly as ever.

Posted by Deep on (January 11, 2013, 16:04 GMT)

'Tricks up his sleeve'is the word! Warne was to Australia what Botham was to England in the 80s, capable of changing the game with his force of personality alone and very aware of that ability.

Posted by Joe on (January 11, 2013, 13:59 GMT)

No more respect for this person.

Posted by Shawn on (January 11, 2013, 13:22 GMT)

Not sure what the writer is trying to say here. Is he facinated by his acts and encouraging it? Hope this is a one off article and concentrate on maybe photography please.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Philip Brown
An Australian freelance cricket photographer who has been based in England for over 20 years, Philip Brown has photographed over 150 Test matches and numerous one-day and T20 tournaments around the world. Possibly his proudest moment was winning a gold medal for barbecuing burgers and hot dogs at the Murrumbateman show.

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