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The 41-year-old legspinner is still fascinated by his craft and knows he can still get the job done. As long as he doesn't actually have to watch too much cricket
Interview by Faraz Sarwat
May 24, 2012
I like that when you look at the number of Tests I took to get to 200 wickets, it was relatively fast, but then in time it was ten years. I kind of like that. I think that's fun.
Shane Warne and I very rarely played together when we were both at our peak. A lot of the time when Shane and I played together, he was either injured or coming back from injury or going into injury. When we did, it was pretty formidable.
Like most kids growing up in Australia in the '70s, I wanted to bowl fast like Dennis Lillee, and I certainly tried to be a fast bowler. Dennis was a friend of the family's and I just enjoyed watching him play and I wanted to be him.
John Buchanan was of the opinion that economy rates won you one-day cricket. I still disagree with that. I think if you take ten wickets in a one-day match, you win the game.
Everybody knows I like reading. My new job is in advertising, and reading is now my living.
Everybody always talks about Muralitharan, but he very rarely got the wickets that Shane and I got in the same environment. He's a very good bowler, his record will probably never be beaten, but you can only judge people when they are playing in the same environment, and I remember very well that Shane completely outbowled him on a tour of Sri Lanka.
Shield cricket in the '90s and 2000s was tough, but it wasn't more competitive than international cricket. You had guys like Jamie Siddons, Stuart Law, Darren Lehmann, Michael Kasprowicz and Andy Bichel playing for their states. There were some amazing players. Jamie Siddons didn't play a Test match and he was a ridiculously good player.
I'm very disappointed I didn't get a chance in the IPL. I know that I can still take wickets and I know I don't like playing cricket if I don't. I only want to take wickets, so from a team's point of view, I'm a pretty handy acquisition.
My dad bowled legspin, so I tried to bowl spin as well as bowl fast. I did both until I was about ten years old. I realised I wasn't a very good fast bowler, so from then on I was bowling spin all the time, and I really enjoyed doing what my dad did.
I don't really like watching cricket. I quite like sitting in a corner with a book. It relaxes me. I think you get very tired watching cricket on a cricket tour. Sitting and reading a book is like being on a holiday. Wake me when it's time to bowl.
There are a number of us who still rate the '98 tour to Pakistan as our favourite. I've been to Pakistan twice - I went with an A team as well.
The hardest batsman to bowl to for a spinner was Brian Lara. There's no spin bowler in the world who hasn't been smashed by him. In Shield cricket it was Darren Lehmann and Michael Bevan. Lehmann was the best player of spin in Australia by a long way. Bevan wasn't too far behind. Lehmann would try to hit you from ball one, really hard. As far as right-handers go, VVS Laxman was right up there.
|"I don't really like watching cricket. I quite like sitting in a corner with a book. Sitting and reading a book is like being on a holiday"|
Warne and I are both prepared to say that we weren't the biggest fans of Buchanan. You only need to look at New Zealand's experience recently to know that there aren't very many environments that he's worked in that have been successful. I think he was gifted the best team of all time when he was coach of Australia.
When I got my best innings figures in Tests (8 for 108), I didn't come on to bowl until they were almost 200. People say it was against Bangladesh and it doesn't really matter, but they were none-for when I came on to bowl, so it was quite a satisfying haul of wickets.
In Pakistan, we found the people are incredibly friendly. It's clean, the structure is good, the food is good. When you consider that culturally our two countries are so different, we got along with everyone so well and we were looked after so well. I don't like Westerners saying, "Oh, we shouldn't go there", because they don't understand and they don't know how good it is.
The whole Big Bash Twenty20 experience, for me, was up there with some of the best experiences of my life, because we won though we were tipped to finish second-last.
I think I would have been a good ODI player for Australia. But once again if I look at my ODI career, I only played three games but I got six wickets.
Everybody always says that the Australia versus Rest of World game was a farce because the world team didn't try and all that sort of stuff. I know Shane has this opinion too, that he and I bowled really well, and it was no surprise to us that we won the game comprehensively.
Murali was a great bowler but Shane was special in Australian conditions, when you consider that we don't have Asian spin-bowling conditions. Shane was very good - his control was ridiculous.
Dad played a few games for Western Australia, and it was cool to do what he did.
When I started playing first-grade cricket for my club, I looked at [getting] five wickets a game. When I started playing, the most anyone got, when I first looked, was 5.25 wickets per Test. And I thought, "Right, I'm going to go for five", and I ended up getting just under that. That was a really cool thing for me.
I would have loved to have played 100 Test matches. I think my life would be a little different if I had, but if you look at the game historically, 44 Tests is plenty. Forty-four Tests and 200 wickets - I'm very happy with that.
As a spinner, if you're going to get hit in Twenty20, you've got to balance that with a strike rate that's decent. There's no point getting smacked around if you're not taking any wickets. That's the trade-off.
With Sachin Tendulkar, you were very hard-pressed to find an opening, but he didn't really ever get away from me. He made a 200 somewhere, but he occupied the crease, whereas Lara and Laxman would try to smash you and invariably get away with it.
It was actually 17 books, not 24 books that I read on the tour of Pakistan. I've changed it a number of times.
I do consumer insights for an advertising agency. It's quite good fun and sort of like being in university again. They've been very good to me. They let me take six weeks off over the summer for the Big Bash and they let me come here [Toronto].
I find T20 cricket pretty easy for a bowler, provided you don't get upset. It's great for older players. You know that if you get hit for six, it doesn't matter. The batsman's trying to hit you for six every ball, so if you bowl a dot, it's a win.
I enjoyed playing with Warne, and I think it's very difficult for spin bowlers now because they don't get to compare themselves with him. They can only compare themselves with his stats and that's not something they can win. I'm very lucky to have played with him.
There was no question about me playing for another club. If Stuart Clark, the general manager of the Sydney Sixers, hadn't managed to find a spot for me, I wouldn't have played in the Big Bash.
I'm very disappointed at not playing many ODIs. Until recently I was the leading wicket-taker of all time in domestic one-day cricket in Australia. I did very, very well for New South Wales. I got lots of four- and five-wickets hauls. New South Wales won a lot of one-day tournaments - they may have even won five during my career.
Faraz Sarwat is the cricket columnist for the Toronto Star and the author of The Cricket World Cup: History, Highlights, Facts and FiguresFeeds: Faraz Sarwat
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