As Australia's leading wicket-taker, England's top tormentor and the only current player to rank as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the 20th Century, you might have thought that Shane Warne has less need for modesty than many of us. But it is certainly apparent in his new autobiography, written with Richard Hobson of The Times of London, published today by Hodder & Stoughton, price £18.99.
In it Warne refers to the "Gatting delivery" - the ball with which he burst on to the Ashes scene at Old Trafford back in 1993, as "a complete fluke". In case you needed reminding, it was his first ball against England, and turned from outside Gatting's legs with enough vigour to leave the England captain not just out but utterly nonplussed, bowled off-stump. "The first couple of balls you bowl are just warm-ups, and you just hope to get them somewhere near the right spot," said Warne. "To bowl the perfect leg-break first up - I think it was just meant to be. Whatever you do in life there are things that happen, and in my journey in life that was just something that happened."
Although Warne hails Ian Chappell, Ian Botham and Dennis Lillee as his original cricketing heroes, he reserves the ultimate accolade for Allan Border. "He is probably the biggest influence on my career," Warne said. "He showed a lot of confidence in me when I first started, and he believed in me as a spin bowler. We spinners need confidence from our captains, and I was fortunate to watch and talk to him over the years, as I developed as an international cricketer."
It is fortunate for cricket that Warne wasn't built a few inches taller. Although he played the game as a child, he wanted to be an Australian Rules footballer. Again he is fatalistic about the outcome: "It was a huge disappointment in my life, but I believe that everything happens for a reason. Maybe the good man upstairs was telling me I had to play cricket, and I wouldn't swap it for the world. It's been a fantastic journey so far, and I hope there are still some good years left."
Looking back over the years in the book, Warne devotes a chapter to corruption in cricket, and tells of his own encounter with the notorious "John", and how he reluctantly accepted money after talking to him about pitches and weather. He remains adamant that he did nothing wrong. He also writes fondly of his association with Hampshire (where he hopes to return) and picks some dream teams of his own era. As to Australia's present dominance over England, he puts that primarily down to Australia's superior ability to handle Test cricket's big moments.
As to the future, does Warne have his eye on Courtney Walsh's 500-wicket haul in the long term? "My ambition is just to take as many wickets as I can in both forms of the game. I haven't got a target, like Glenn McGrath and these guys. I love playing at the moment, I'm enjoying myself, and hopefully it can continue for a while."
There aren't too many regrets either, although one is that he never had the chance to bowl at Vivian Richards or Ian Botham. "Botham would probably have whacked me all over the park, but it would still have been nice to bowl to him. 'Beefy' and Viv Richards are the two guys I would love to have bowled to in international cricket."
Now that would have been an encounter to savour.