Bangalore Royal Challengers v Rajasthan Royals, IPL, Cape Town April 18, 2009

Warne wizardry lights up veterans' day

Shane Warne's night was ruined by a shoddy batting performance from his team. But what a pleasure he was to watch. We must be grateful that he is still in our lives, however briefly

I have known no better sights in cricket than watching Shane Warne bowl. Watching VVS Laxman's batting comes close; however, there are days when VVS may look a stranger, plodding and grafting like a pedant. But Warne is a joy even when he is being had.

A lot of it comes from being a legspinner. They are enchanters. Sublime, magical, unpredictable, fallible, they possess an art that tugs at the soul. Just as they can make your heart soar with joy, they can make you feel their pain. But even among these rare men, Warne is a man apart.

Twenty20 is not his stage. The limited nature of the game constricts and diminishes his craft. Legpsinners are meant to bowl like millionaires, with leisure and pomp. They are creatures of rhythm and the build-up for them is gradual. The first four or five overs, they are meant to feel their way through. Twenty20 allows them no fifth over - perhaps not even a second if their first doesn't land right. Cameron White has had some success in this form, but he is a legspinner only by definition, not in practice.

This season, the odds were stacked even higher against Warne. Not only is he a year older, he is also far rustier, having played no competitive cricket since the last IPL and, going by the practice match a few days earlier, he was far from match-fit. But geniuses find a way to express themselves on the big stage, and how Warne lifted his game.

Three balls is all it took. The first three balls were short, but length was growing fuller every ball and, by the fourth, Warne had found his mojo. When the fifth one left his hand, Virat Kohli sensed a four, but the moment he left his crease he was a goner. The ball floated up in the air, inviting the charge, but when the batsman went down the pitch, he found a grand deception. The ball had drifted away and it had dipped. The bat created an empty arc, and the ball found legstump. The next one nearly took off as it spun viciously past B Akhil's hopeful prod.

Rahul Dravid swept him away for four the next over and worked him away for a couple of singles, but the third over was sensational. It started with the legspinner's perfect ball: it drifted in, dipped in flight and spun from leg to outside off. Beaten all ends up, Dravid looked up and nodded in appreciation. Good batsmen know a great ball when they see one. With the third, out came the flipper: skidding, fast and on target, it found Akhil's pad even before the bat could make its way down. It looked plumb, but replays showed the umpire was right. The impact had been outside the offstump. But the next ball he was gone, dragged forward by the flight, deceived by the dip and defeated by the turn.

Praveen Kumar managed to swat a straight six in the his last over, distorting his figures somewhat, yet 4-0-18-2 wasn't bad returns for a man who will turn 40 in a few months in a game that is supposed to be a young man's game.

In fact, the day belonged to the golden oldies. Dravid, so berated in the first edition and stripped of the captaincy this year, played the innings of the day, Sachin Tendulkar carried his bat and was Man of the Match in the first match and Anil Kumble finished the day with five wickets.

Warne's night was ruined by a shoddy batting performance from his team. But what a pleasure he was to watch. We must be grateful that he is still in our lives, however briefly.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ven.Kat on April 21, 2009, 5:23 GMT

    I agree with Sambit...Warne was just Amazing!!! Treat to watch!!!

  • Chedchatri on April 19, 2009, 19:43 GMT

    I think the people who say that Kumble isn't getting his due are totally missing the point! Nobody denies that Kumble is an all time great, but there is a difference between a great bowler and a genius. And make no mistake Warne is a genius of the highest order. Kumble has other qualities which make him a great bowler, but as far as I am concerned there has never been a spin bowler (leave alone leg spin) quite like Warne. The kind of drift and turn he was getting yesterday was really reminiscent of his best days. It was funny actually seeing batsmen like Kohli taking wild slogs and getting completely beaten all ends up. If they want to play shots like that against him they ought to take lessons from players like Lara and Sachin!

  • Charindra on April 19, 2009, 13:30 GMT

    Warne is a great bowler, but yesterday was not about Warne at all. It was about Dravid defying his critics, Kumble defying the odds and Pietersen defying the petty, disrespectful crowd. The pitch was spin friendly and that's the reason for the success of the spinners. Infact if Murali was selected to play Chennai may well have won the first game. But it's unsurprising that Warne gets all the accolades because all his playing life, he has been able to attract the media who love to romanticize his character flaws.

  • AT111 on April 19, 2009, 9:11 GMT

    To all those guys who are complaining about Sambit Bal concentrating mostly on Warne, remember, this is an article on Warne and not a news report of the matches. Obviously he is going to concentrate on Warne.

    If he had written about Tendulkar's fifty, one of these guys would probably have written complaining that Bal was ignoring bowlers like Warne who did well in spite of not playing regularly nowadays.

    Give the writer a break and just enjoy the article.

  • Percy_Fender on April 19, 2009, 5:22 GMT

    It is not surprising on a day when there were two performers for Bal to eulogise one and not mention the other. All their carreers long Warne has been written of much in the same manner all of blond hair and genius in his craft. Yet we have the great Anil Kumble thought of in just plebian terms. Anil was unplayable where as Warne was hit for a six by someone like Praveen Kumar ! While acknowledging the greatness of Warne, let us not play to the gallery and reserve purple prose for him alone. Kumble was and will always remain an all time great even if Warne gets all the praise all the time.

  • sushantsingh on April 19, 2009, 5:10 GMT

    brilliant article by the author ,but as usual indian fan are complaining about their player not getting the due. If they want to hear the praise of indian players they must go & watch hindi news channel who are always worshipping ONLY indian players . cricinfo is a global site & it should praise every good player. WARNE he is miles above the others & he has prove it once again.

  • Nipun on April 19, 2009, 4:10 GMT

    Warne was a treat to watch,but equally impressive were Rahul,Sachin & Anil.Rahul & Sachin played 2 tremendous knocks,especially Rahul,apart from Pietersen,looked to be the only batsman to be able to score runs in the 2nd game.Anil was also superb;you don't achieve figures of 5 for 5 without being a super bowler in T20s.

  • Tesladin on April 19, 2009, 3:17 GMT

    I find it ironic, and somewhat disheartening, that an article is written commending the wizardry of a man who feeds off of the limelight on the same day as when a man who prefers to keep a low profile, takes 5/5.

  • MaraudingJ on April 19, 2009, 2:40 GMT

    Along with Allan Donald, Shane Warne will forever be my favourite bowler to watch (having not had the privilege to see my other heroes, the West Indian pace attack of the 80s, and Michael Holding in particular). This is quite the confession coming from a South African, but who else has ever packed so much whizzing promise into every single delivery?

  • bhushan08 on April 19, 2009, 1:42 GMT

    Pardon me, but what is this fascination with Warne, he bowled well, I enjoyed watching but why ignore Kumble. I can say even the two wickets which warne took was due to inept batting - more qualified batsmen would not just have saved their wicket of those balls but also scored.

    Kumble has neven gotten his share of limlight and this is just another illustration of it. Sad

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