February 24, 2002

Warne diets to become second leading wicket-taker

Shane Warne has given up pizza, toasted cheese sandwiches, sausage rolls and vanilla slices to become cricket's second leading wicket-taker.

Warne admitted it had been "bloody hard, mate" to shed eight kilograms since Christmas but the sacrifices paid off when he blasted through South Africa yesterday to pass yet another milestone.

Warne took six wickets in Australia's crushing first Test win at the Wanderers, pushing him to 436 wickets from 99 Tests, behind only retired West Indian great Courtney Walsh (519).

At his current rate, Warne will need another 18 Tests to pass Walsh, but he may be unable to stop surging Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who has taken 404 wickets from just 72 matches.

If Warne wins the race to Walsh, he might thank his new diet, which includes the last luxuries of baked beans and cereal.

"I haven't eaten pizzas or drunk beers for the last couple of weeks. I've dropped about eight kilos," Warne said.

"(No) pizzas, toasted chesse sandwiches, chips, potato chips, sausage rolls, vanilla slices - there's not much left for me except for cereal and some baked beans.

"That's basically what I've been doing. And just some water."

Warne has stuck with the diet in a challenging season during which he has faced more needling about his future in the one-day squad and his ability to keep Stuart MacGill out of Test cricket.

He wants to stay on top of the critics and admitted his 32-year-old body needed a healthy diet.

"As you get older, you've got to watch your little niggles. I had a little niggle in my hamstring at Potchefstroom (last week)," Warne said.

"I suppose as you get older it's harder to back up day after day, week after week - all the tours, all the tour games - I just want to give myself the best chance.

"Over the next 18 months there's a hell of a lot of cricket to play, so I want to make sure I'm (in) the best shape I can possibly be."

Warne has been forced to defend his future in the one-day game after Steve Waugh's shock axing last week and Australia's greatest wicket-taker in both forms of cricket clearly bristled at the speculation over his future.

"Every series there's always people out there that like to try and write you off but I don't think I've ever been scrutinised as much I have the last couple of months, every single time I bowl," Warne said.

"One match I'm bowling well, the next match I'm bowling rubbish, the next I bowl fantastic.

"I had a pretty inconsistent one day series, some good games and some bad ones, but it's just good to come out in the first game of the series here and bowl the way I did and get some wickets, and play my part.

"I'm pretty happy."