Shane Warne December 20, 2010

The man who became legspin

No bowler exemplifies the art of the legbreak as much as Shane Warne does; no bowler ever will
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Shane Warne will probably never play at the Melbourne Cricket Ground again, but a corner has been marked out for him. In October 2008, in the bowels of the ground, the National Sports Museum activated "Shane Warne: Cricket Found Me", in which a three-dimensional image of Warne speaks for more than 10 minutes, seemingly ex tempore, while appearing to walk around a dressing room.

The technology is remarkable; Warne himself, however, is more remarkable still. He was required to speak about his career to a camera, without prop or prompts, in one uninterrupted take. As you observe, he did so effortlessly, without ever breaking eye contact - or, perhaps more accurately, lens contact. Elsewhere in the museum, a simulacrum of the Australian Rules footballer James Hird, an intelligent and well-spoken young man, goes through the same routine in a similar display: his attention falters, his eyes dart away, his body language is tentative. You watch Warne again. You hate to admit it but it's true: he seems to be talking to you. Now that is charisma.

Warne was an extraordinary bowler. It can't really be said often enough. He will personify legbreak bowling for as long as the skill exists. If and when an outstanding new purveyor achieves note, the question will be: how does he compare with Warne? As fascinating to watch as were Anil Kumble and Mushtaq Ahmed, Warne's was the style to study and emulate - so simple, so unadorned, so apparently artless. So epic were his feats, too, that it is hard to recall legbreak bowling before him. In the 1980s, of course, there were the mysteries and intrigues of Abdul Qadir. But Qadir's wickets down under cost 61 runs each. Had Cormac McCarthy written a novel of Australian cricket at the time, in fact, it would have been called No Country for Young Legspinners. That was certainly the attitude, when Warne first played Sheffield Shield, of his captain Simon O'Donnell and coach Les Stillman. Seldom has received wisdom been more promptly and utterly routed.

Warne cut a swathe through batsmen in the early 1990s who had seen nothing remotely similar for generations - which was amazing. Then he cut another swathe and another - which was miraculous. After his Test debut in England, with its fabled "Gatting ball", Warne's bowling average was 28. It diminished to 22.55, grew to 26.7, and finally settled at 25.4. Until then legspin had been a speculative investment, cricket's venture capital; Warne made it into bowling bricks and mortar. Everything told you it should be otherwise. Batsman would get used to him. Coaches would work him out. Curators would prepare flat pitches. All these were before the physical dangers Warne posed to himself, for legspin involves colossal efforts at pivotal points in the human anatomy. And, to an extent, all the aforementioned possibilities eventuated. In each case, though, Warne rose to the challenge of counteracting them. He kept getting batsmen bowled. He get kept getting them lbw. He kept getting them WTF. He had almost no right to, but he did.

Yet even then, this doesn't quite do him justice, for Warne was no more to be considered simply a bowler than Marilyn Monroe was to be deemed merely as an actress. He was a presence, on the field, in the game, in the media, in the mind. To each delivery, there was a whole preamble, sometimes theatrical, sometimes languorous, always captivating. As he dawdled before his trademark saunter, he would curl the ball from hand to hand, an action both predatory and dainty, feeling his own powers of torque communicated through the ball, keeping the batsman in his crouch that little longer than perhaps was comfortable - time for thought, time for doubt. That pause: it was almost imperceptible, yet time would seem to stand still. It called to mind Paul Keating's parliamentary retort when quizzed by his rival John Hewson as to why he did not call an early election: "The answer is, mate, I wanna do you slowly."

He kept getting batsmen bowled. He get kept getting them lbw. He kept getting them WTF. He had almost no right to, but he did

In the last few years of his career, these performances of Warne's bordered on burlesque. The Ashes of 2005 and 2006-07 were series divided: there was the cricket featuring Warne, then the rest. There was brilliance, there was bluff; he was the beamish boy one moment, the blowhard the next. He was seldom outbowled, hardly outfoxed, never out-talked. His manner with dissenting umpires was straight from the WG Grace playbook: "They've come to watch me bowl, not you umpire."

Nor was it always a pageant of success. A day that sticks in the mind is the fourth in Perth in December 2006. Warne toiled for almost two sessions from the Prindiville Stand End, on a perfect batting wicket, in temperatures well over 40 degrees, taking 1 for 100. Yet every ball was full of willingness and will power. Every time he paused at the top of his run, you felt like the batsman was simply there for his delectation. Every time he whirled into his action, you expected a triumphant appeal to follow. At the time, it transpired, he was contemplating the retirement he announced before the next Test. You'd never have guessed: he seemed to be setting himself to bowl forever. Late that day, Glenn McGrath, spared work for the afternoon, struck crucially with the second new ball, and afterwards commented that the wickets were as much Warne's as his: how often, by the pressure he exerted, by the yakka he soaked up, that was true.

On fame in cricket, meanwhile, Warne rewrote the book. In this, to be sure, he had some help. On television in India, Sachin Tendulkar has exerted perhaps the single greatest influence; on tabloid culture in England, Ian Botham left indelible inky fingerprints. Yet Warne blazed a trail of fame everywhere cricket took him, and everywhere he took cricket. He oozed action. He radiated star quality. An expectation surrounded him, including his own of himself, as it has done few other players, and as it was once summarised by another Australian cricketer: "Every time Warne bowls he expects to take wickets. Every time he bats he expects to make runs. Every time he sees a woman he expects to get laid."

His weakness, particularly in the last of these, was an incapacity for saying no - to others, to himself. But you could sort of understand this apparently infinite suggestibility: after all, most of the time "yes" worked so damn well. And in the end Warne pulled it off: even after all his tribulations he has ended up being a good advertisement for fame. Certainly he always seemed to enjoy it - sometimes to a fault. "He loves to be loved," said his captain Steve Waugh, and the media has never outgrown its infatuation with him. For all his sometimes tetchy relations with them, too, Warne has returned the media's embrace. No past master has fitted as seamlessly into commentary as Warne - insightful, irreverent, irrepressible, even in his recent perma-tanned petrifaction.

Warne also remained, above all, absolutely true to his gift. Fame had opposite effects on Tendulkar and Botham. Tendulkar preserved his excellence by sequestering himself from a clamouring public; Botham swallowed celebrity whole and spat out self-parody. Warne swaggered down the middle of the road, living large but always bowling big, revelling in the attention while never losing the love of his craft. Even now, at 41, in the IPL, he looks completely engaged in every game, playing because he wants to, not because he has to. There are those who say he obtains wickets because he is Shane Warne; to this, Warne would undoubtedly reply: "Thanks for the compliment."

Warne has inspired books, busts, bottles of wine, hagiographies, hatchet jobs, mountains of memorabilia, even a musical. But in some respects, the MCG's installation of him is his most faithful reflection. Many, many more people saw Warne as image than reality; he is a man of comparatively few close friends and millions upon millions of acquaintances. Yet somehow, despite all the layers of mediation, all the received opinion, all the manufactured outrage, the naturalness came through, and we felt we knew him.

Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • BillyCC on December 23, 2010, 12:35 GMT

    MiddleStump, of course this selection panel are not the only experts in world cricket. However, don't you think it is extraordinary that a random panel of experts with different views and biases from different countries and backgrounds all picked the same spinner unanimously? And for everyone's benefit, Sobers said about Warne "I think he is a great bowler, but I'm not sure how well he compares with spinners overall. I think people get carried away with this man's ability as he hardly ever bowled a good googly.To me, Shane Warne is a great turner of the ball. I like his aggressive attitude, I love the way he attacks batsmen and I give him 100% for that as not enough spinners bowl with that approach, but in my estimation Subhash Gupte was a better legspinner." That statement doesn't necessarily prove he wouldn't go for Warne in a World XI. Sobers on Murali: "I think Muralitharan is more difficult because he develops something that no other off-spinner has ever developed." Not conclusive

  • MiddleStump on December 23, 2010, 9:14 GMT

    BillyCC, are these dudes on the selection panel the only genuine experts in the world? There are many such experts outside the panel. Sobers, the greatest all rounder, has a different take on Warne. Warne was great but strictly outside India. If you choose to ignore all matches played in a particular part of the world and anoint somebody as the greatest, there is nothing more to say. Biggus, I watched Chandra from 66 onwards until his retirement. I am well aware of the 77-78 tour down under. That was just about a year before his retirement, so you may have felt Bedi was better. In any case, as I hypothesized earlier, had Warne been playing in India in the 70s, he would have really struggled to make the Second XI based on his performances on those pitches. As for not leaking runs, I think you have forgotten how Tendulkar went after him in India or even Sharjah in 98. And don't forget Chandra and the rest would have a better economy rate if they had the same quality of outfield support.

  • Mark00 on December 23, 2010, 7:25 GMT

    @delusional.clowns

    Raw stats favor murali.

    Stats adjusted based on your criteria (normalize based on number of deliveries against each country, ie., what if murali bowled exactly the same number of deliveries against each country as Warne, so less zimbabwe+bangladesh, more England, WI, etc) favor Murali even more.

    Then when you consider the quality of wickets, Murali's win margin becomes rather massive. You see, a higher percentage of Murali's wickets were top and middle order batsmen while a higher percentage of Warne's were tailenders. Yet both Warne and Murali took almost exactly the same number of deliveries to take a wicket.

  • knowledge_eater on December 23, 2010, 5:28 GMT

    He is my childhood hero. I used to mimic his bowling style all the time. I used to get lot of turn with tennis ball with his style as well. I used to have his cricket card in high-school. And I think he was trump card. :P Thank you for all those memories.

  • Paulk on December 23, 2010, 3:51 GMT

    Great article. He was and is truly an original, reinventing leg spin bowling. But no mention of Stuart MacGill? I think for a while atleast there was a ongoing debate of Warne OR MacGill in the australian team setup and if MacGill had showed up a little earlier the team setup might have been different. He usually outperformed Warne playing together. Maybe two spinners playing regularly - I was always hoping for a regular bowling lineup of McGrath, Gillespie, Warne and MacGill but the powers that be thought otherwise.

  • BillyCC on December 22, 2010, 21:30 GMT

    MiddleStump, I take your point that it's advisable to take the World XI selections with a ton of salt. However, I think for the line ball selections, that's ok. When the decision is unanimous, then it's most likely that the people who disagree are missing something. The experts are experts for a reason, and their opinions carry more weight than ours, particularly because they are involved in the game at the highest level. They see or sense something that ordinary fans like me or you could never see. So unless they all conspired to pick Warne together or all had the same bias (which is unlikely), then we should defer to their better judgment. My World XI selection had Murali ahead of Warne (I chose two teams and the one based on merit had Murali), and I was shocked to see that Murali didn't even rate a mention in the first choice XI (unless someone from the panel picked two spinners in the same team).

  • Biggus on December 22, 2010, 11:54 GMT

    @MiddleStump-We'll have to agree to disagree on the Chandra point my good man. I am well aware of his figures but I base my assessment of him not from the media but from watching him here in 1977/78 and other times, and I thought he was marvellous, but I thought Bedi was better. As for Warne he has 600 wickets at something like 25 and it's hard to argue with those numbers, besides that, I rate him the best I've seen. What sets him apart in my opinion was that he hardly ever bowled a really bad ball. Chandra, Qadir, MacGill-these guys could all be relied on to bowl a real shocker every over or two, and whilst they may have been theoretically as dangerous as him this fact limited their ability to exert sustained pressure at times. Warne's extraordinary accuracy meant that as often as not he could dictate playing conditions without being expensive, and maintaining pressure brings wickets as we all know. Whereas most leggies leak runs like a sieve Warne was a captain's delight.

  • TheOnlyEmperor on December 22, 2010, 7:51 GMT

    It should also be pointed out in the MURALI-WARNE debate that Warne was not able to take any 10 wicket hauls in Tests against India, New Zealand, West Indies, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh - all of whom against he played. Murali on the other hand, took 10 wkt hauls in a match against all nations he played against. Warne was a stand-out bowler only against England and the fact he is the GREATEST got propagated along with the Ashes hype in a cricket world that is still run by opinions formed out of Aus-English media core. Consequently, the OPINION of the cricinfo panel of self proclaimed historians and ex-cricketers (nominated as experts) mean nothing, particularly to a generation who have practically watched every over bowled by both Murali and Warne, in all formats of the game, while understanding the value of stats behind evaluating and comparing performance. Subjectivity like "flamboyancy and charisma" don't count when evaluating MERIT.Clearly Murali's ball does the talking on the field!

  • TheOnlyEmperor on December 22, 2010, 6:32 GMT

    I lost respect for the cricinfo selection panel when they chose Warne over Murali and here's why. Consider this. In TESTS : Murali had 800wkts and 22-10s hauls and 67-5s. Warne had 708wkts and 10-10s and 37-5s. In ODIs : Murali has 517 wkts and 10-5s. Warne had 293 wkts and just 1-5s! The consolidated figures for Tests and ODIs: MURALI: 1330wkts, avg=22.87, eco=2.91, sr=47, 77-5s, 22-10s. WARNE: 1009wkts, avg=25.51, eco=2.98, sr=51.2, 38-5s, 10-10s. MURALI also holds the record for the maximum Man-of-Series awards by any CRICKETER to date in TESTS=11. To say that Murali's record is bloated by his performance against Zim and Bangladesh is derogatory and outright petty. Besides, the controversies surrounding Murali are all Aus driven who cannot just bear the fact that the best EVER bowler and batsman are NOT Australian.

  • Emancipator007 on December 22, 2010, 6:27 GMT

    1st Post @HarshalB, don't be surprised as I have mentioned before that Gideon is basically an Anglo-Australian historian and we should say welcome to his primarily Ashes legends- Liilee, Warne, ahem D. Bradman and the like. "Batsmen who had seen nothing remotely similar for generations"-ridiculous statement. He would have never heard about the 2 Gupte brothers and their mastery over legspin-or deliberately ignoring them. A historian should critique and not pen eulogies like a fan would about an acknowledged player. Abdul Qadir was the absolute legs spinner with a vicious googly to boot (of course as usual, Indians mastered him). Whereas Warne has been called over-rated by Arjuna Ranatunga , Salim Malik, Aravinda de Silva- all masterful players of spin. The combative and canny Ranatunga deliberately attacked Warne in that high-stakes 1996 World Cup final (knowing full well about a vast television viewing audience) to walk the talk. Alleged math-fixer Malik was only done in by supreme

  • BillyCC on December 23, 2010, 12:35 GMT

    MiddleStump, of course this selection panel are not the only experts in world cricket. However, don't you think it is extraordinary that a random panel of experts with different views and biases from different countries and backgrounds all picked the same spinner unanimously? And for everyone's benefit, Sobers said about Warne "I think he is a great bowler, but I'm not sure how well he compares with spinners overall. I think people get carried away with this man's ability as he hardly ever bowled a good googly.To me, Shane Warne is a great turner of the ball. I like his aggressive attitude, I love the way he attacks batsmen and I give him 100% for that as not enough spinners bowl with that approach, but in my estimation Subhash Gupte was a better legspinner." That statement doesn't necessarily prove he wouldn't go for Warne in a World XI. Sobers on Murali: "I think Muralitharan is more difficult because he develops something that no other off-spinner has ever developed." Not conclusive

  • MiddleStump on December 23, 2010, 9:14 GMT

    BillyCC, are these dudes on the selection panel the only genuine experts in the world? There are many such experts outside the panel. Sobers, the greatest all rounder, has a different take on Warne. Warne was great but strictly outside India. If you choose to ignore all matches played in a particular part of the world and anoint somebody as the greatest, there is nothing more to say. Biggus, I watched Chandra from 66 onwards until his retirement. I am well aware of the 77-78 tour down under. That was just about a year before his retirement, so you may have felt Bedi was better. In any case, as I hypothesized earlier, had Warne been playing in India in the 70s, he would have really struggled to make the Second XI based on his performances on those pitches. As for not leaking runs, I think you have forgotten how Tendulkar went after him in India or even Sharjah in 98. And don't forget Chandra and the rest would have a better economy rate if they had the same quality of outfield support.

  • Mark00 on December 23, 2010, 7:25 GMT

    @delusional.clowns

    Raw stats favor murali.

    Stats adjusted based on your criteria (normalize based on number of deliveries against each country, ie., what if murali bowled exactly the same number of deliveries against each country as Warne, so less zimbabwe+bangladesh, more England, WI, etc) favor Murali even more.

    Then when you consider the quality of wickets, Murali's win margin becomes rather massive. You see, a higher percentage of Murali's wickets were top and middle order batsmen while a higher percentage of Warne's were tailenders. Yet both Warne and Murali took almost exactly the same number of deliveries to take a wicket.

  • knowledge_eater on December 23, 2010, 5:28 GMT

    He is my childhood hero. I used to mimic his bowling style all the time. I used to get lot of turn with tennis ball with his style as well. I used to have his cricket card in high-school. And I think he was trump card. :P Thank you for all those memories.

  • Paulk on December 23, 2010, 3:51 GMT

    Great article. He was and is truly an original, reinventing leg spin bowling. But no mention of Stuart MacGill? I think for a while atleast there was a ongoing debate of Warne OR MacGill in the australian team setup and if MacGill had showed up a little earlier the team setup might have been different. He usually outperformed Warne playing together. Maybe two spinners playing regularly - I was always hoping for a regular bowling lineup of McGrath, Gillespie, Warne and MacGill but the powers that be thought otherwise.

  • BillyCC on December 22, 2010, 21:30 GMT

    MiddleStump, I take your point that it's advisable to take the World XI selections with a ton of salt. However, I think for the line ball selections, that's ok. When the decision is unanimous, then it's most likely that the people who disagree are missing something. The experts are experts for a reason, and their opinions carry more weight than ours, particularly because they are involved in the game at the highest level. They see or sense something that ordinary fans like me or you could never see. So unless they all conspired to pick Warne together or all had the same bias (which is unlikely), then we should defer to their better judgment. My World XI selection had Murali ahead of Warne (I chose two teams and the one based on merit had Murali), and I was shocked to see that Murali didn't even rate a mention in the first choice XI (unless someone from the panel picked two spinners in the same team).

  • Biggus on December 22, 2010, 11:54 GMT

    @MiddleStump-We'll have to agree to disagree on the Chandra point my good man. I am well aware of his figures but I base my assessment of him not from the media but from watching him here in 1977/78 and other times, and I thought he was marvellous, but I thought Bedi was better. As for Warne he has 600 wickets at something like 25 and it's hard to argue with those numbers, besides that, I rate him the best I've seen. What sets him apart in my opinion was that he hardly ever bowled a really bad ball. Chandra, Qadir, MacGill-these guys could all be relied on to bowl a real shocker every over or two, and whilst they may have been theoretically as dangerous as him this fact limited their ability to exert sustained pressure at times. Warne's extraordinary accuracy meant that as often as not he could dictate playing conditions without being expensive, and maintaining pressure brings wickets as we all know. Whereas most leggies leak runs like a sieve Warne was a captain's delight.

  • TheOnlyEmperor on December 22, 2010, 7:51 GMT

    It should also be pointed out in the MURALI-WARNE debate that Warne was not able to take any 10 wicket hauls in Tests against India, New Zealand, West Indies, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh - all of whom against he played. Murali on the other hand, took 10 wkt hauls in a match against all nations he played against. Warne was a stand-out bowler only against England and the fact he is the GREATEST got propagated along with the Ashes hype in a cricket world that is still run by opinions formed out of Aus-English media core. Consequently, the OPINION of the cricinfo panel of self proclaimed historians and ex-cricketers (nominated as experts) mean nothing, particularly to a generation who have practically watched every over bowled by both Murali and Warne, in all formats of the game, while understanding the value of stats behind evaluating and comparing performance. Subjectivity like "flamboyancy and charisma" don't count when evaluating MERIT.Clearly Murali's ball does the talking on the field!

  • TheOnlyEmperor on December 22, 2010, 6:32 GMT

    I lost respect for the cricinfo selection panel when they chose Warne over Murali and here's why. Consider this. In TESTS : Murali had 800wkts and 22-10s hauls and 67-5s. Warne had 708wkts and 10-10s and 37-5s. In ODIs : Murali has 517 wkts and 10-5s. Warne had 293 wkts and just 1-5s! The consolidated figures for Tests and ODIs: MURALI: 1330wkts, avg=22.87, eco=2.91, sr=47, 77-5s, 22-10s. WARNE: 1009wkts, avg=25.51, eco=2.98, sr=51.2, 38-5s, 10-10s. MURALI also holds the record for the maximum Man-of-Series awards by any CRICKETER to date in TESTS=11. To say that Murali's record is bloated by his performance against Zim and Bangladesh is derogatory and outright petty. Besides, the controversies surrounding Murali are all Aus driven who cannot just bear the fact that the best EVER bowler and batsman are NOT Australian.

  • Emancipator007 on December 22, 2010, 6:27 GMT

    1st Post @HarshalB, don't be surprised as I have mentioned before that Gideon is basically an Anglo-Australian historian and we should say welcome to his primarily Ashes legends- Liilee, Warne, ahem D. Bradman and the like. "Batsmen who had seen nothing remotely similar for generations"-ridiculous statement. He would have never heard about the 2 Gupte brothers and their mastery over legspin-or deliberately ignoring them. A historian should critique and not pen eulogies like a fan would about an acknowledged player. Abdul Qadir was the absolute legs spinner with a vicious googly to boot (of course as usual, Indians mastered him). Whereas Warne has been called over-rated by Arjuna Ranatunga , Salim Malik, Aravinda de Silva- all masterful players of spin. The combative and canny Ranatunga deliberately attacked Warne in that high-stakes 1996 World Cup final (knowing full well about a vast television viewing audience) to walk the talk. Alleged math-fixer Malik was only done in by supreme

  • on December 22, 2010, 3:23 GMT

    @BillyCC - that's easy to explain. There was no Sobers in the panel :) Neither Tendulkar and Bradman.

  • the_complete_batsman on December 22, 2010, 3:21 GMT

    @Biggus....you are right, it was Grimmett who invented the flipper.Totally agree with you about Chandra. Chandrasekhar was a very, very good bowler indeed, and unplayable on his day, as you say, but there is no way he was better than Warne (and I am Indian). Regarding Warne not having a very good wrong'un, I really couldn't care less....what matters is taking wickets, and not the ball with which you get them......for all I care, Warne could have got all of his wickets by bowling long hops or bouncers or yorkers and he would still be the best for me.

  • MiddleStump on December 22, 2010, 2:20 GMT

    BillyCC, precisely my point. By ignoring all the stats, Warne's performances under different conditions and so on, the so called 'experts' have only exposed their bias or ignorance or both. We are well advised to take their 'selection' with a ton of salt. Biggus, let us not glibly accept the media's portrayal that Chandra blew hot and cold. Look at his record. He had a few off days, not anything more than any other class spinner. Certainly not anything like Warne who mastered the art of disappearing in India. Chandra had to overcome a physical handicap and play with a weaker supporting cast which says far more about his character. On another note, I don't think that Warne would have even made the Indian Second XI in the 70s consistently. Based on his poor performances in India, not only would he have struggled to displace the spin quartet but would have also been relegated by other master spinners like Kumar, Goel, and Shivalkar. To select such a spinner in an all time XI is hilarious.

  • Meety on December 22, 2010, 0:54 GMT

    @ Mark00 - LOL, talk about maipulation, you have based your analysis on about 4 or 5 filters. Well how about this in Test Matches at the Gabba v NZ on the first Day in overcast conditions, Warne's statistics are better then Murali. Or should I say in Tests v Bangladesh in Sri Lanka, Murali's record is better then Warne! What a joke!

  • Hutty86 on December 22, 2010, 0:16 GMT

    Mark00, you are kidding yourself. Murali filled his boots and boosted his record against sides like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, who Warne only played a few times (if that). He was utterly ineffective in Australia and the only people who rate him better than Warne are Sri Lankan fans. Warne was the whole package, Murali is but a controversial sideshow

  • Biggus on December 21, 2010, 22:51 GMT

    Some interesting points of view here! @Khyberboomboom-Abdul Qadir was the very first to introduce the flipper eh? I don't think so mate. I'm pretty sure Clarrie Grimmett knew of it and Richie Benaud certainly did, so that statement is demonstrably wrong. @MiddleStump-I remember Chandrasekhar well, and though he was certainly a fine bowler only the most one-eyed Indian fan could claim that he was the equal of Warne. Chandra very much blew hot and cold-on his day he was close to unplayable but on others he was hopeless and of the Indian spinners of that era I would rate Bedi higher as he could be relied on far more that Chandra. As for those who claim that his lack of a great wrong'un means he should not be rated so high, who says that only 'classic' leggies are to be rated? On that score one could say Chandrasekhar's flight was minimal, or Bill O'Reilly (whom Bradman rated as the best he faced) got most of his wickets from top spinners and wrong'uns and that his leggie didn't do much.

  • BillyCC on December 21, 2010, 21:14 GMT

    Middlestump, Mark00, how do you explain the fact that Warne made the Cricinfo All Time World XI unopposed when the panel consisted of a whole cross-section of cricket experts from a playing point of view, from a geographical point of view, from a cultural point of view, from a historical point of view and from different sections of the media. Many of these panel members watched cricket for over 50 years and played and captained at the highest level. All of them also knew about Murali's superior record and about Warne's record against India.

  • on December 21, 2010, 14:58 GMT

    I should have mentioned Gupte in my roll of great leg-spinners as he has a signicant overall test record and some outstanding performances against WI in the Caribbean when they were at their strongest.

  • on December 21, 2010, 14:50 GMT

    I agree about the ratings of Chandrasekhar, Murali and Kumble - they all belong in the same category as Warne in the modern age. But none of them possessed the charisma that Warne brought to test cricket and drew people to the game, as players like Tendulkar do today (as he has done for many years).

  • crackers134 on December 21, 2010, 14:34 GMT

    Great article on the world's greatest ever bowler by the worlds greatest ever cricket writer! Great stuff Gideon. How many test wickets would Warnie have taken the last 4 years? Bring him back, as captain!

  • MiddleStump on December 21, 2010, 12:56 GMT

    Warne was no doubt an outstanding spinner but he was not close to being the greatest spinner or anything of the kind. That is the creation of the media in the UK and Down Under. Sobers is spot on. Having watched the game for half a century Warne is not even the best of the spinners I have seen play. And his record in India which is the ultimate test for a spinner is shabby. People may want to compare his stats with one B.S. Chandrasekhar from a not too distant era who bowled unconventional leg spin with a withered arm and far less batting support from his team. Let us give Warne his due and move on. All the stuff about being the greatest is only romanticism by the ignorant media swallowed whole by some ignorant fans.

  • on December 21, 2010, 10:39 GMT

    @buddhi Wickrama.... - interesting quote & there is alot of truth to it. I myself think that Clarrie Grimmett was the best Leggie Oz ever produced - look his statistics up! The thing about Warne is as mentioned here was the theatrics. I remember many a time he was bowling to a batsmen who was in form & reading him well - so what did he do???? Stroll over to the captain Border/Taylor/Waugh/Gilchrest/Punter - point here & there & generally talk crap - then what????? He would bowl & the batsmen would over read the spin or misread the loop or something & get out. Brilliant. @TheOnlyEmperor- this is an article about Warne not SRT! Murali's haul is bloated by "cheap" wickets against Zim & Bang. Murali was a great bowler but did not have the same aura as Warne. This arguement has been done to death - Wanre got every vote for the World XI, Murali didn't - there was a diverse mix of Judges, that means that is not just "Aussies" that think Warne was the greatest - end of story!

  • Mark00 on December 21, 2010, 6:41 GMT

    @Statz,

    Once you adjust for number of deliveries against opposition, Murali's statistical advantage improves even further.

    When you ig deep into the data, it becomes clear that Warne's average is boosted not just by the massive number of tests against England, but by the fact that he got to bowl at tail-enders a lot more than Murali.

    Murali is not just statistically superior when adjusted for country but his advantage is further multiplied by his higher percentage of top order wickets at a similar strike rate as Warne took his higher percentage of lower order wickets.

  • Mark00 on December 21, 2010, 6:30 GMT

    A mediocre record.

    Test average: 25.41 ODI average: 25.73

    As Garfield Sober's said, there have been better leg-spinners.

    Among spinners, generally, Murali crushes Warne in every measure of significance. Normalize for opposition and Murali's statistical advantage improves further.

    Warne is flamboyant. Absolutely. Murali and other spinners superior to Warne let the ball do the talking.

  • on December 21, 2010, 5:38 GMT

    @Sehwagology - I will take arguments based on Statsguru any day over arguments that appeal to charisma, flamboyance, entertainment value etc :) For the record, Warne is a great great bowler, easily belongs in the best 10 of all time, if not best 5.

  • Emancipator007 on December 21, 2010, 5:31 GMT

    I always have one question for Anglo-Aussie historians and pundits; if statistically superior Don Bradman is rated the best batsman of all time and not Tendulkar, then why is overwhelmingly statistically superior Muralitharan rated second to Warne as a spin bowler. Warne feasted on pathetic English sides of the 90s while Murli got to play England in England only 6 times in his entire career-blame the ICC's FTP and all that ! And still picked up 48 wickets.

  • Emancipator007 on December 21, 2010, 5:29 GMT

    sledger and gamesmanship wizard Warne (accused himself of hob-nobbing with bookies) in the return series in OZ in 1995-96.Let's not even talk about the Indian batting greats who have collared and mastered him thru the 90s and the noughties (Indian batsmen are too submissive or gentlemanly to make bombastic comments in public about Warne being over-rated). Yeah right "cut swathes thru which countries'" batmen we know. Running webs around leaden-footed English and South African batsmen [or badly disciplined 2000s era Sri Lankan (circa 2004 series in SL) and Pakistani batsmen] don't make for an all-time great spinner. By the way, G. Gooch has rated Qadir as the greater and more allround leg-spinner and Sobers has called Subhash Gupte as the best leg-spinner of all time. Warne's overwhelming persona (admittedly he did bring spin bowling to the fore again), Ashes successes (there you go again for the Friths and Wisdens for whom only Ashes battles matter!) have blinded many cricket analyts.

  • KhyberBoomBoom on December 21, 2010, 5:00 GMT

    For instance, being the only leg break bowler to ball two different kinds of googlies and being the very first one to introduce flippers into this art of bowling and bear in mind that one of the reasons why Qadir could bag more wickets than he did was because umpires as they themselves mentioned so may times, that they could not pick the trajectory of his flippers. He was an amazing bowler and he deserves his due respect and place in cricketing annals as the legend of leg spin bowling. Warne a world class, but I hope to see someday Qadir too mentioned along side him as the legend of legspin as well

  • KhyberBoomBoom on December 21, 2010, 4:54 GMT

    it surprises me that Warney is hailed as the personification of Leg Spin. No doubt that he was a world class leg spninner, but why do we ever forget about Abdul Qadir "The Magician". Abdul Qadir was the guy who re-introduced leg spin into cricket and made sure that it stayed there forever. The ball of the century that people talk about, it just gives me a laugh that the similar deliveries were only balled by him in a gap of 3 years every time the previous one was delivered. And secondly they turned from the rough, by no means i am denying his class and brilliance, but Qadir was the real deal. Warne is always hailed as the king of leg spin, but why is there no talk of Qadir when it comes to talking about the resurgence of leg spin and bringing in innovation into this art.

  • the_complete_batsman on December 21, 2010, 3:28 GMT

    I think the Warne-Murali debate is inconclusive - if Warne had better bowlers around him, he also had to bowl more on less helpful Australian tracks as compared to Murali. Warne was dreadful against India, but then Murali was also quite a bit below par against India. Anyway, every player has his bogey team......Dravid has faired pretty poorly against SA, so have Ponting and Lara against India, but all of them are undisputed batting titans, and greats of the game. Warne brought a lot to the game in terms of viewing interest and the sheer magic of his bowling. He was certainly the one bowler people would pay to watch above all others.

  • smudgeon on December 21, 2010, 1:33 GMT

    Cricket has a life beyond stats, and if you've got half a brain you can make numbers back up whatever your agenda is. The fact that I think a lot of people miss in the Warne vs. Murali argument is that we were blessed to have them both playing at the same time - two of the all-time greats. Watching either of them bowl was test cricket at it's best, and as much chalk-and-cheese as you could get. There are more differences than similarities between the two as humans and players, so the Murali vs. Warne argument is pretty pointless.

  • on December 20, 2010, 21:59 GMT

    Hmmm, Murali averaged 75 in Australia and 45 in India, obviously a crap bowler! That Tendulkar bloke only averages 40 with the bat in Zimbabwe and Pakistan, he can't be any good. Its amazing what useless statistics you can find to support any argument isn't it. Forgive me but wasn't this article about Warne?

  • deepgill on December 20, 2010, 18:03 GMT

    Indeed, one of the greatest Cricketer of all time. Master of Leg spin, which is one of the hardest thing to master in Cricket

  • Statz on December 20, 2010, 16:54 GMT

    Quite simply; the greatest bowler of all-time. No one made every ball an event like Warne and no one rose to the occasion as often as Warne. People keep mentioning his record against India but fail to mention that during most of the time he played them he was either debuting; or injured and horribly out of form. Warne had shoulder and finger injuries that threatened to end his career. He recovered, came back and was even better than before. During the 00s; Warne's strike-rate was as good as McGrath's - an all-time great pacer - which is simply unheard of. He also had the disadvantage of bowling half his tests on unreceptive pitches (home, Australia). His away record is absolutely fantastic. His great rival was Murali; but once you account for the minnows and the fact that he thrived on pitches doctored to his talent you begin to see just how good Warne was.

    As the author himself said once; there'll sooner be another Bradman than another Warne.

  • dejavu on December 20, 2010, 14:56 GMT

    nice article i love it everything that is written is true

  • on December 20, 2010, 9:16 GMT

    "Someone who is called great from today's game is Shane Warne, but I have got my reservations about Shane," Sobers writes.

    "I think he is a great bowler, but I'm not sure how well he compares with spinners overall. I think people get carried away with this man's ability as he hardly ever bowled a good googly.

    "To me, Shane Warne is a great turner of the ball. I like his aggressive attitude, I love the way he attacks batsmen and I give him 100 per cent for that as not enough spinners bowl with that approach, but in my estimation Subhash Gupte was a better leg-spinner."

    - Sir Garfield Sobers

  • memoriesofthepast on December 20, 2010, 9:14 GMT

    Warne's achievement is great and all legspinners will surely feel proud of what Warne achieved but they should know that Bhagwat Chandrasekhar bowled legspin for India with a hand paralyzed by polio , managed to play 58 tests and take 242 wickets from those inspite of facing competition from other spinners-Venkat, Bedi and Prasanna in the 1970-80 period for share of the wickets. Chandra was a test-match winning bowler for India even in pitches of England and Australia. He used his other hand for fielding and was not afraid to bat against the WEst Indian pace attack that was capable of sending the batsman to hospital. International test cricket did not see any other spinner who bowled inspite of having physical disability in the bowling hand and achieve what Chandra did with his bowling. Chandra is a source of inspiration and if he can get 242 wickets then Warne or Murali or Kumble all of who are perfectly abled can surely get at least 600 each. Chandra is the best.

  • Sehwagology on December 20, 2010, 7:08 GMT

    Yes McGrath was equally crucial to Australia's domination but there will be another tall bowler who can match his accuracy (and there have many before). I'm not sure there will ever be another Warne.

  • Sehwagology on December 20, 2010, 7:07 GMT

    Quite simply the greatest cricketer of his generation and arguably the game's greatest ever bowler. I'm sure the naysayers will be out in force denigrating his record in India, using that most odious of tools - Statsguru - to nitpick and find flaws. However ask yourself one question - has there been a more compelling, more charismatic, more flamboyant, more watchable and more entertaining cricketer in our lifetime. And add to that his incredible record, his wonderful on-field temperament, his record in big matches (man of the match in 2 world cup semi-finals and in 1 final) and the supreme natural gifts that elevated his skill into an art form. Leg spin bowling is the hardest skill in cricket - which is why it is so unique - and yet here was a bowler with complete mastery of it. I have lived in India, in the UK and now in East Asia and no other cricketer generates as much discussion, fascination or awe from the fans of ALL cricket playing nations as SK Warne. (conitnued)

  • TheOnlyEmperor on December 20, 2010, 5:35 GMT

    This is a good write-up on Warne and the fact that he was at his prime the world's best leg spinner. I cannot however but notice, how the word "Murali" doesn't figure anywhere in the article, when discussing Warne's biggest spinner rival and the world's best IMO. People remember heroes by what historians write about them and make of them. So it's not really Warne's fault that the Aussies think Warne has been the world's best spinner to date, even though Murali's number of 10 wicket and 5 wicket hauls put Warne a very distant second and those comparative figures say it all for me. To say "Yet Warne blazed a trail of fame everywhere cricket took him" while making it seem SRT a local Indian hero, is the height of Aussie prejudiced romanticism. Clearly, the author hasn't been tuned to the welcome SRT gets the world over, whenever he walks on to the field.

  • longrun on December 20, 2010, 4:47 GMT

    good article. dead set legend as a player and an entertaining knowledgeable commentator. but let's stop the idiotic calls for a return and enjoy him for what he was and is now. time to move on. wondering how long it will be before someone pipes up about sachin being better and he was no good in india. i think one of the best things ever is warney getting pallets of baked beans and other food sent from oz because he couldn't handle the toxic ganges fish and other delhi-cacies

  • harshalb on December 20, 2010, 4:10 GMT

    Shane Warne: career average 25.34, average against india in india 43.11, average against india in australia 62.55, overall average against india 47.18. average against india in 4th innings 50.85. Thrashed in India even by Ranji sides and second string batsmen. Weak in cricket history, eh Giddo?

  • BillyCC on December 20, 2010, 3:21 GMT

    The cricketing world spoke as one when Warne got EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE VOTE from the whole judging panel in determining the All-Time World XI team. This makes him the greatest bowler ever to play the game. Period. There's really not much more to argue even though people will try.

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  • BillyCC on December 20, 2010, 3:21 GMT

    The cricketing world spoke as one when Warne got EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE VOTE from the whole judging panel in determining the All-Time World XI team. This makes him the greatest bowler ever to play the game. Period. There's really not much more to argue even though people will try.

  • harshalb on December 20, 2010, 4:10 GMT

    Shane Warne: career average 25.34, average against india in india 43.11, average against india in australia 62.55, overall average against india 47.18. average against india in 4th innings 50.85. Thrashed in India even by Ranji sides and second string batsmen. Weak in cricket history, eh Giddo?

  • longrun on December 20, 2010, 4:47 GMT

    good article. dead set legend as a player and an entertaining knowledgeable commentator. but let's stop the idiotic calls for a return and enjoy him for what he was and is now. time to move on. wondering how long it will be before someone pipes up about sachin being better and he was no good in india. i think one of the best things ever is warney getting pallets of baked beans and other food sent from oz because he couldn't handle the toxic ganges fish and other delhi-cacies

  • TheOnlyEmperor on December 20, 2010, 5:35 GMT

    This is a good write-up on Warne and the fact that he was at his prime the world's best leg spinner. I cannot however but notice, how the word "Murali" doesn't figure anywhere in the article, when discussing Warne's biggest spinner rival and the world's best IMO. People remember heroes by what historians write about them and make of them. So it's not really Warne's fault that the Aussies think Warne has been the world's best spinner to date, even though Murali's number of 10 wicket and 5 wicket hauls put Warne a very distant second and those comparative figures say it all for me. To say "Yet Warne blazed a trail of fame everywhere cricket took him" while making it seem SRT a local Indian hero, is the height of Aussie prejudiced romanticism. Clearly, the author hasn't been tuned to the welcome SRT gets the world over, whenever he walks on to the field.

  • Sehwagology on December 20, 2010, 7:07 GMT

    Quite simply the greatest cricketer of his generation and arguably the game's greatest ever bowler. I'm sure the naysayers will be out in force denigrating his record in India, using that most odious of tools - Statsguru - to nitpick and find flaws. However ask yourself one question - has there been a more compelling, more charismatic, more flamboyant, more watchable and more entertaining cricketer in our lifetime. And add to that his incredible record, his wonderful on-field temperament, his record in big matches (man of the match in 2 world cup semi-finals and in 1 final) and the supreme natural gifts that elevated his skill into an art form. Leg spin bowling is the hardest skill in cricket - which is why it is so unique - and yet here was a bowler with complete mastery of it. I have lived in India, in the UK and now in East Asia and no other cricketer generates as much discussion, fascination or awe from the fans of ALL cricket playing nations as SK Warne. (conitnued)

  • Sehwagology on December 20, 2010, 7:08 GMT

    Yes McGrath was equally crucial to Australia's domination but there will be another tall bowler who can match his accuracy (and there have many before). I'm not sure there will ever be another Warne.

  • memoriesofthepast on December 20, 2010, 9:14 GMT

    Warne's achievement is great and all legspinners will surely feel proud of what Warne achieved but they should know that Bhagwat Chandrasekhar bowled legspin for India with a hand paralyzed by polio , managed to play 58 tests and take 242 wickets from those inspite of facing competition from other spinners-Venkat, Bedi and Prasanna in the 1970-80 period for share of the wickets. Chandra was a test-match winning bowler for India even in pitches of England and Australia. He used his other hand for fielding and was not afraid to bat against the WEst Indian pace attack that was capable of sending the batsman to hospital. International test cricket did not see any other spinner who bowled inspite of having physical disability in the bowling hand and achieve what Chandra did with his bowling. Chandra is a source of inspiration and if he can get 242 wickets then Warne or Murali or Kumble all of who are perfectly abled can surely get at least 600 each. Chandra is the best.

  • on December 20, 2010, 9:16 GMT

    "Someone who is called great from today's game is Shane Warne, but I have got my reservations about Shane," Sobers writes.

    "I think he is a great bowler, but I'm not sure how well he compares with spinners overall. I think people get carried away with this man's ability as he hardly ever bowled a good googly.

    "To me, Shane Warne is a great turner of the ball. I like his aggressive attitude, I love the way he attacks batsmen and I give him 100 per cent for that as not enough spinners bowl with that approach, but in my estimation Subhash Gupte was a better leg-spinner."

    - Sir Garfield Sobers

  • dejavu on December 20, 2010, 14:56 GMT

    nice article i love it everything that is written is true

  • Statz on December 20, 2010, 16:54 GMT

    Quite simply; the greatest bowler of all-time. No one made every ball an event like Warne and no one rose to the occasion as often as Warne. People keep mentioning his record against India but fail to mention that during most of the time he played them he was either debuting; or injured and horribly out of form. Warne had shoulder and finger injuries that threatened to end his career. He recovered, came back and was even better than before. During the 00s; Warne's strike-rate was as good as McGrath's - an all-time great pacer - which is simply unheard of. He also had the disadvantage of bowling half his tests on unreceptive pitches (home, Australia). His away record is absolutely fantastic. His great rival was Murali; but once you account for the minnows and the fact that he thrived on pitches doctored to his talent you begin to see just how good Warne was.

    As the author himself said once; there'll sooner be another Bradman than another Warne.