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June 7, 2006
England's wounds have hardly had time to heal since their mauling in the third Test against Sri Lanka, but Shane Warne believes that they will only emerge stronger and tougher against Pakistan later this summer. Speaking at the launch of his new poker website, PokerCricket.com, Warne said: "It's the one series they've got before the Ashes so it will make all their players really hungry. I expect a very good showing."
Thoughts are already turning, of course, to this winter's showdown in Australia, and Warne hopes that Monty Panesar will be on the plane, despite mounting speculation that his fellow spinner won't be able to cope with the crowd pressure.
"If Monty keeps fielding like he has, I'm sure he'll be a crowd favourite in Australia." But if Monty keeps fielding like he has - fluffing at will - he may not be much of a dressing-room favourite. Still, Warne believes Panesar has no option but to continue as he is. "The more you try and fight them, if you get upset with them, the more it can actually affect you. You can have a joke with them and fun with them."
If it's not so surprising that Warne favours Panesar, what may come as a shock to English tacticians is his backing of another spin wizard: Merlyn, the bowling machine. Ominously, he claims that Merlyn - the very machine designed to help English batsmen learn to combat Warne-like whirlers in last year's Ashes - leaves him holding all the aces.
"I think it helps me," he revealed, "because it does these silly things with balls that spin that far and people say 'How do I play that?' and that helps me. So the more they use that the better I reckon."
One thing he does say which will come as some comfort to the England line-up is that he has no plans to develop any new balls just now. "There's nothing in the pipeline at the moment," he said - but is this just a double bluff? Either way, he's doubtless going to cause England enough problems come this winter - and beyond.
He hasn't yet ruled out playing in the 2009 series, as Richie Benaud recently said he hoped he would do. Speaking of Benaud, the silver-haired septuagenerian was the surprise choice for who Warne would like to play him in the upcoming musical of his life. The work, imaginatively entitled Shane Warne: The Musical, is currently being penned by the Melbourne-based comic Eddie Perfect. He had been undecided whether to let Warne know or not, but news travels fast and Warne already knew about it - and he's not necessarily pleased.
"It depends on what sort of spin he wants to put on it, doesn't it? He can be factual, he can not be factual. He can exaggerate it. I don't know, I haven't thought it through whether I like it or don't like it. But I don't like it how people can do books on you ... anyone can write a book on anyone, I don't like that law. I don't like that people can do things about your life without consent, I don't think that's fair."
Neither does he think the ticketing fiasco in Australia has worked out particularly fairly, although he recognises the need for Cricket Australia to have put some policies into place, regardless of how they were eventually executed. "There's a 40,000 stadium - you don't want 35,000 Englishmen and 5,000 for Australia, it's a home ground for England."
Not that he will take much notice when the Barmy Army start up. "I think because I've copped it so much, sledging doesn't get to me. The English have got the best songs. Sometimes they overstep the mark but I think generally it's maybe a bit of fun."
And fun is what it's all about for Warne, who hasn't ruled out appearing in the 2009 Ashes. "It's all about enjoyment. If you enjoy what you're doing, keep doing it, if not it's time to do something else."
He has to retire at some point - and his poker venture will, he hopes, provide a business interest, but in the meantime, how many more Test victims would he like to go with his 685 to date? How many is enough? "Never enough! Whatever it is in life, it's never enough."
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