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Feature

'I get wickets quicker now' - Warne

Peter English listens as Warne talks about his game

Peter English
Peter English
16-Nov-2005
Shane Warne has moved back to the top of the ICC ratings for the first time in ten years and a couple of old friends have re-joined the ride. The flipper and the wrong 'un had almost become fond memories, but a healthy and physically strong Warne dug out his most famous weapon with his rarest one in the opening Test against West Indies to take five first-innings wickets. During the match he detailed his thoughts on the new and old variations as Peter English sat in on the lesson.


Warne: six deliveries, many variations © Getty Images
"I've been working on my flipper for a while," Warne says. "Between '98 and 2001 I had four injuries: two shoulder operations, one on my finger and one on my knee. So for three years I was never really comfortable with what I was doing and I was sort of just surviving. In the last couple of years I thought: `Right, I've got to get the flipper back.' Every time I go to the nets I practise it. It's a completely different feel now because of my finger, which is hooked and not straight. It's also a different feel with the flipper. The [state of my] shoulder makes it a lot harder to bowl wrong 'uns, but I'm pretty fit at the moment and my shoulder is pretty strong. Over the last 12 months to two years I've also tried to get [the flipper] back."
Warne trialled a handful of flippers and wrong 'uns on day two at Brisbane, including a big-turning effort to Brian Lara, and while warming up on the third morning he landed each variation and decided the West Indies lower order would receive his full repertoire ahead of schedule. "It's got to a stage of two good ones out of five and I wanted to make it three out of five before bowling in a match," he says. "But I thought I'd see how I go [on day three] because I was feeling really good." Both options were a success: Fidel Edwards was bowled by a googly and Jermaine Lawson was trapped by the flipper.
Since Warne's dates with the surgeon there have been complaints about his reliance on legspinners and topspinners, but he regularly dismissed the one-dimensional concerns and claimed wickets at an even more alarming rate. "A lot of people talk about variety and what is variety, but I can bowl nothing but a legbreak - not even a straight one or a slider - and still have variety," he says. "I'm not being bigheaded about it but I can bowl five or six different legbreaks: in close to the stumps, out wide, in the middle, with a higher arm, a round arm, side spin, overspin - all for one delivery.
"There are a lot of guys looking at the television saying that's a legbreak all the time, but there are more things than just an actual legbreak. I suppose with a wrong 'un, flipper, slider, topspinner, backspinner, leggie, you've just got different deliveries. Sometimes you can out-think yourself and bowl too much. One of the keys to my game is I'm pretty patient and consistent because I've never tried to do too much. I've always relied on my legbreak and set them up for a straight one or an overspinner that bounces and gets a nick. Now I just can't get too excited and bowl them all the time, but I've never done that in my career. I have to continue practising so that when I want to bowl [the variations], when I want to set the batsman up with my plan, I can deliver them."
Warne says his wrong 'un has always been on show against teams with a long list of left-handers, but remembering a dismissal with the googly is incredibly difficult compared to the highlight reels full of batsmen confused by the flipper or big-turning legbreak. "It's not like I've just plucked out the wrong 'un and decided to bowl it," he says. "I've always bowled them to left-handers. I prefer bowling to left-handers in the second innings because they have to play every ball of your legbreak. They can't pad up - well, they can, but the likelihood is they might get out lbw not playing a shot.
"The first innings is a lot harder because there's no turn and they work it a lot easier. At Brisbane and Hobart there's generally a little bit of bounce with not much turn. With the bounce you generally get the nicks. Sydney and Adelaide are the big spinning decks where sometimes you can beat the bat all day and not get the rewards."
Since recovering from the finger surgery at the beginning of 2001 Warne has taken 268 wickets in 46 Tests, but the most striking features of the pre- and post-op statistics are that his strike-rate has dropped by more than 16 balls a wicket and his match haul has lifted from 4.36 in his first 84 Tests to 5.83 in the rest.
"I get wickets quicker now than I've ever done because batsmen go after me," he says. "They used to just sit on me, wear me down, and it was a lot harder to get wickets. I'm enjoying the attitude of the opposition, they want to come after me and hit me off my length. I can make serious inroads into their batting and my statistics back that up."

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo