Warne breaks the 600-wicket barrier
Shane Warne may be many things - not all of them can be worn as badges of honour - but give him his red cricket ball and he becomes a wizard. His bag of tricks include the ripper, the gripper, the flipper, the zooter and the slider, and to show for his magical prowess, he now has a gargantuan haul of 600 Test wickets.
As Test cricket's highest wicket-taker and the first to claim 600 scalps, Warne has come a long way from the young, blonde rookie he was against India in 1992, when Ravi Shastri and Sachin Tendulkar treated him like a pie-thrower at Sydney. His road to fame and fortune wearing the Baggy Green has been peppered with infamous incidents - Warne the man does not fall in the role model category. Warne the legspinner, though, is unrivalled. Ask Daryll Cullinan, Mike Gatting, Basit Ali and now Andrew Strauss what it's like to face Warne in top form. Warne took his 100th Test wicket in England at Edgbaston and it's hardly a surprise that the top five batsmen dismissed by Warne are all from England.
The manner in which he has bounced back after each setback is a huge testimony to his mental resolve. Banned for a year after testing positive for a banned diuretic at the 2003 World Cup, Warne used his forced vacation to train and stay physically fit. On his return, it was like he'd never been away, taking 26 wickets in three Tests in Sri Lanka in 2004. Since then Warne has bagged 82 wickets in 15 Tests. His break-up of wickets portray a picture of magnificent consistency.
Warne has performed outstandingly against every country and in every country with the exception of India, and to a certain extent, West Indies. He has very impressive figures against both Pakistan and Sri Lanka but the wounds inflicted in his debut series tend to re-open every time Warne faces the Indians.
They say fast bowlers hunt in pairs, but Warne certainly hunts better with Glenn McGrath than without him. Interestingly, the lower order (positions 6-11) accounts for 342 of Warne's 600 wickets. His top-order victims (positions 1-5) make up only 42.9% of his tally, the lowest figure among the 19 highest wicket-takers in Tests. A little further thought and you'll realise why. McGrath, who has the first go at the opposition, has 57.48% of his 508 wickets comprising the top order, a figure beaten only by Allan Donald's 58.79%.
With Muttiah Muralitharan closing in with 549 Test wickets, the battle between him and Warne to stay on top of the wicket-takers' list will be a worthy one. It matters little whether Warne finishes on top of the wickets tally when he retires. Cricket will be extremely fortunate to have another legspinner with half the talent and a fraction of the charisma that Warne has given to the game.
George Binoy is editorial assistant of Cricinfo. He was helped by Arun Gopalakrishnan from the Cricinfo Chennai Office for the stats.