By Vinay Anand
Shane Warne may have acquired legendary status as one of the greatest leg-spinners in the history of the game, but the fact remains that he is also one of the most controversial because of several intemperate actions in both his professional and in his private life. Warne now finds himself in the centre of another storm for subtly accusing Sachin Tendulkar of being unsporting, following his comments on the Jaipur wicket.
However, in the midst of being in the news for his dalliance with Liz Hurley, his alleged face lifts and uncharitable potshots at opponents, Warne has been an inspirational leader for Rajasthan Royals.
His charismatic personality coupled with dynamic leadership makes him a huge force inside and outside the Royals’ dressing room. He has been an inspirational mentor to the many inexperienced team mates, backed his players with immense confidence and thrust them into challenging situations from where the players emerged with flying colours to grow in stature. And Warne’s own performance as a player has been top class, showing no signs of his advancing age. For people like Warne, age is only a number.
One of the most vibrant cricketing brains, Warne's captaincy has played a major role in resurrecting Shane Watson's career and making him the phenomenon he now is. If little-known entities like Swapnil Asnodkar, Ravindra Jadeja, Yusuf Pathan, Siddharth Trivedi and Ashok Menaria are confidently rubbing shoulders with established international names, it thanks largely to Warne who instilled the belief in them and backed that belief with actions on the field as a leader.
Warne’s methodologies get intriguing by the day. He is reportedly said to have devised the 'pinky doll concept' to maintain discipline and improve the camaraderie between the players. What this basically means is that, anyone found guilty of indiscipline, is given a pink doll, and is made to carry it the entire day - in the hotel lobby, for team lunches, team meetings and even during the nets.
"Since it is a long tournament, such things make sure that the spirit stays lively. The idea is to make sure that everyone stays at the same level. There should be no difference due to experience and profile. Shane wants no junior player to be overawed by big international stars," said a team member.
It wasn't a surprise, thus, to see South African Twenty20 skipper Johan Botha carry the doll with him. "Apparently, he had committed a minor breach and everyone was asked to tease him," said the member.
It’s all good in talks, but it's his on-field performance that commands the reverence he gets from his players. At 41, he is still bamboozling batsmen with his guile.
He is a very different creature this man, Shane Keith Warne. I remember something that Eric Idle said about the male of the species: "Man has two major organs - brain and penis. But blood only enough to run one at a time!" Something that summarizes Warne, as Ian Chappell will tell you that too!
Surely, the world's best captain the world never saw!
(Vinay Anand, 17, has an uncanny eye for detail. He revers cricket - looking beyond the glamour into the heart of the game where true passion, perseverance and grit meet. To him, there is no greater joy than coming closer to the sport while exploring its intricacies through his writing and treading ahead to establish himself as a writer and presenter)