Extending the frontiers of leg-spin bowling
BOWLING (World Cups 1996 & 1999)
Runs Per Over.....3.83Catches…..2
One of the most charismatic spinners of all time, the name Shane Warne spells magic. At his best he turned the ball phenomenally, exercised great control - something not usually associated with leg-spinners - and had a flipper that struck like a cobra. Though time and shoulder injuries took their toll, Warne remained an inspirational character who could turn the tide any day.
Having undergone a shoulder operation in 1998, Warne injured it again when he fell heavily in December 2002. It seemed doubtful that he would recuperate in time for the 2003 World Cup. He made a rapid recovery, but there was mayhem on the eve of Australia's opening World Cup tie. It was revealed that Warne had tested positive for the drugs hydrochlorothiazide and amiloride in a test carried out by the Australian Sports Drug Agency (ASDA). He returned home, his dream of another glorious World Cup campaign in ruins. This was yet another twist in Warne's great career. Even so, he returned to the fray after a one-year ban and continued to weave his magic spell. Sadly, he was not destined to play another World Cup.
Warne embodied the revival of spin bowling in the nineties and displayed that spinners - and leg-spinners in particular - could be match-winners even in One-day cricket. Australia were runners-up and then champions in the two World Cups that he has played. He was man-of-the-match in two semi-finals and a final. He was the highest wicket-taker - jointly with Kiwi Geoff Allott - in a single World Cup with 20 wickets in 1999, until Chaminda Vaas, Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath surpassed the mark in 2003. Among spinners he was the leading wicket-taker in the World Cup with 32 wickets at a superlative average of 19.50 and economy rate of 3.83. These are his achievements in pure statistics. In terms of intangibles, the positive impact that he had on Australian and world cricket is awesome.
When he played his first World Cup in 1996, Warne was already hailed as one of the greatest. Though economical in the early matches, he came into his own when he destroyed the Zimbabwean line-up. He beat Andy Flower in the air and had him stumped by Ian Healy. He then had Craig Evans caught behind just as the dashing batsman was beginning to repair the damage in the company of opener Andrew Waller. Finally, he snapped up the last two wickets, having Stephen Peall caught once again by Healy, and then rattling the timber behind Charlie Lock. Warne finished with four for 34 off 9.3 overs. This brought him his first man-of-the-match award of the World Cup.
Warne took two wickets in the high-scoring quarter-final win over New Zealand. He dismissed centurion Chris Harris, and Adam Parore. Warne also played his part as pinch hitter at no.4, smashing 24 runs off only 14 deliveries with 2 sixes and a four.
It was in the semi-final that Warne struck decisive blows to carry his side to an unlikely victory. He caught opener Courtney Browne off his own bowling with his very first delivery. But the West Indies began cruising at 93 for one, and then 165 for two, needing just 208 to win. Suddenly they went into a slump and Warne was the catalyst. Otis Gibson was foxed by a Warne delivery, edging it to Healy. Warne then got his flipper working to deadly effect. Jimmy Adams and Ian Bishop had no clue, both trapped plumb in front of the stumps. Suddenly, the West Indies were 194 for eight. They capsized soon after. Australia snatched victory by five runs, and Warne took away the man-of-the-match trophy for his four for 36 in 9 overs.
It was a disappointing final for the Australians as the inspired Sri Lankans lifted the Cup.
The opening tie in 1999 hardly posed any problem as the Scots were brushed aside. Not surprisingly, they found Warne too mesmeric and he took three for 39 off his 10 overs. Australia then ran into trouble with two successive defeats, and Warne was unable to lift them. There was respite against Bangladesh who found Warne difficult to score off.
It was vital to defeat the West Indies, and Warne gave splendid support to Glenn McGrath. After the paceman had knocked off the top of the Caribbean line-up on a seaming wicket, Warne turned his attention to the later batsmen. He bowled Shivnaraine Chanderpaul and, as he has done so often courtesy his flipper, trapped Curtly Ambrose and Reon King leg-before. Warne returned with figures of 10-4-11-3 as the West Indies crashed to 110 all out in 46.4 overs.
Australia qualified for the super-six stage, but Warne took a back seat in the first two matches. In the closely fought last game he broke a 95-run second-wicket stand between South Africans Herschelle Gibbs and Daryll Cullinan, knocking off the bails of the latter. Immediately after, he dismissed captain Hansie Cronje leg-before in trademark fashion, repelling the Proteas charge. Warne continued to be thrifty in his 10-over stint of two for 33.
This was just the warm-up. Shane Warne, the champion leg-spinner, came alive as the tournament built up to a climax. He showed what it actually means to rise to the occasion, and what really separates the greats from the also-rans. He provided a splendid study on how to will oneself on to lofty peaks and to motivate one’s team to exhilarating heights. "Warne is a fast bowler in a spinner’s body", Michael Slater once remarked.
The South African openers made a nonchalant beginning, chasing Australia’s 213 in the semi-final. At 48, Warne deceived Gibbs in the air and clean bowled him. Visibly pumped up now, he soon bowled the left-handed Gary Kirsten behind his legs. Two balls later, Warne had Cronje caught by Mark Waugh at slip, though television replays suggested that the ball had gone off the unfortunate batsman’s boot. Cullinan was run out. Jacques Kallis and Jonty Rhodes set about repairing the damage. After Rhodes fell, Kallis carried on in the company of Shaun Pollock.
Warne had figures of 9-4-14-3 when he came on for his last over. Kallis was dropped at long-off, and Warne was hit for 15 runs off the first five balls. But off the last delivery he had Kallis caught in the covers by skipper Steve Waugh. It was now 175 for six. Warne finished with four for 29. The drama continued to unfold, leading to the heart-stopping tie in the 50th over. Australia advanced to the final. Warne was man-of-the-match, having inspired his side to edge out an accomplished and resolute adversary in a match that was balanced on a razor’s edge till the last moment. Ian Chappell wrote in The Daily Telegraph: “Not since the days of Dennis Lillee have I seen an Australian bowler inspire his team from a seemingly hopeless situation.”
The Pakistan innings never took off in the final, and Warne scythed through the middle. He bowled Ijaz Ahmed through the gate, and had Moin Khan caught behind playing a lazy stroke for once. The feisty Shahid Afridi was plumb leg-before, while skipper Wasim Akram holed out to his opposite number Steve Waugh. Warne had figures of four for 33 off 9 overs as Pakistan tumbled to 132 all out in 39 overs. After the Australian batsmen cantered to the meagre target, a jubilant Warne stepped forward on the Lord’s balcony to accept yet another man-of-the-match award.
This was one of the high watermarks of his illustrious career. Warne has been the pin-up boy of Australian cricket for several years, an honour usually reserved for fast bowlers and dashing batsmen. He has given a new lease of life to the art of leg-spin bowling, in the process becoming the first bowler to capture a mind-boggling 700 wickets in Test cricket. Often in the news for the wrong reasons, there can be no denying the matchless skills that he is bestowed with nor the fighting qualities that he has cultivated. Oozing with talent and inspirational beyond compare, Shane Warne was forever re-inventing himself. Just when he was written off, the podgy trickster reappeared in a new incarnation. There was a lot of guile left beneath that naughty face.
(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011
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