Shane Warne doesn’t see any problem with Australia’s cricket culture © Getty
The inaugural Indian Premier League champions, Rajasthan Royals, are in midst of a makeover. Their talismanic skipper then, Shane Warne is once again the face driving that change. On Sunday, the legendary Aussie leg-spinner spoke exclusively to TOI. Excerpts…
Ten years with Rajasthan Royals. What does it take to have so much of Shane Warne’s attention?
I think the people. There’s a loyalty factor attached to club sport and I like that. I’ve always only played for one team. Australia, Victoria, St. Kilda and Rajasthan Royals. In county cricket, it was Hampshire. I’ve had many roles here but what really drove me was the people of Jaipur. There wasn’t much expectation, they just wanted their team to do well. There was a feeling of appreciation and I felt they took me for who I was. They gave me the space. I want to pay back that loyalty.
When this space that you mention, is given to Shane Warne, does it bring out the best in him?
Yes, absolutely. Firstly, there’s a huge difference between being liked and being respected. I got both in plenty with RR. Today, franchises have a bowling coach, a batting coach, physios, mentors, team managers – there are so many people around the team now doling out advice. In my case, it was a one-stop shop. That helped. Being honest with the players helped. If a player wanted to know why he was in the team, or why he wasn’t, all he had to do is come to me and I always kept that door open. All of that resulted in a nice build-up and we could create an amazing team. It’s the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done in cricket – help create everybody’s favourite underdog in IPL.
Cricket Australia is seeking a culture change. Do you think it is working?
I really don’t know if there was a problem with the culture. But what I do know is after Sandpapergate, how many people loved seeing the Australians in trouble and how many people sunk their boot in. How many people kicked them when they were down. There might have been an issue because every team did not like the Australians and that’s OK. You don’t have to be liked but you need to be respected. And there are a few things the Australian team did (to lose that respect). They need to earn back that respect.
Signing autographs will help do that?
The Australian way of playing cricket is tough, uncompromising but above all, fair. Maybe that’s where the Australians weren’t doing it right, pushing it too far and with the culture change policy, they’ve gone too far the other way. Now I think everything they’re doing is for public image. As soon as the last ball is bowled in a game, they’re all signing autographs near the fence. People should sign autographs if they want to. I was one of the guys who signed all the time, took pictures and I think all cricketers should. But, there’s a time when it should hurt. You may not want to speak to anyone if you’ve lost. You need your own time to get into the dressing room and get over it.
Is CA trying to fix something that’s not broken?
CA needs to work out what’s important to them. I can understand why they’re (CA) doing this (trying to improve image in public). But it should happen because they (players) want to, not because they have to. Steve Smith made a huge error in judgement, but Steve Smith is not a bad person. But it is the punishment that has amplified the problem. A 12-month ban? Really? Think about some of the other teams and individuals and what they’ve done. Let’s say a $10m fine could’ve been levied. He made a mistake but I think he has been punished very harshly.
With today’s social media scene, authorities seem to be under some kind of pressure to be seen as doing the right thing…
I think too many people worry about what people say. It’s about being true to yourself and standing for what you believe in – to do the right thing. For instance, the Australian cricket team – they want to play tough, aggressive, uncompromising cricket but it has to be fair. As simple as that. There are too many people in the world, not just cricketers, that get on their phone and create something that isn’t real. They try and portray a life that isn’t real.
Too much rule-setting can result in dumbing down of expression? It’s happening in cricket…
We live in a world that’s increasingly becoming politically correct. And what we want to see from sportspersons is them being real. We want to see their emotions, see them playing with freedom, expressing themselves. We don’t want to see them conforming. For instance, most player interviews these days go like this: Question: Well, that was a fantastic result today. How do you feel? Answer: Well, it was a great team effort. Everybody played well and did their part. I’m just trying my best and happy to contribute to the team – That’s what everyone says. Guys have to get more real.
Is that why Virat Kohli comes as a breath of fresh air? Speaks his mind…
He’s fantastic. I love watching him bat and I love listening to him. I am a big fan.
One of the things he doesn’t do is he doesn’t take things lying down…
You know what he does? He stands up for what he believes in. He speaks how he feels and he’s real. He’s emotional, a bit too emotional sometimes on the field. But that’s the part of the charm.
Is that why Australia loves him?
I think world cricket loves him. Everyone loves Virat Kohli because it’s refreshing to hearing him talk so honestly and openly. He loves confrontation. That’s why he has those 100s in chases. How many, 23, 24? The next best is how much? I can’t remember who’s second. That’s something inbuilt into you. That’s not skill or talent. He’s got a lot of that. That is just pure competitiveness and pure desire – to get the job done.
“Very hard to judge eras,” says Warne when asked about the Tendulkar-Kohli comparison © Getty
You’ve seen Sachin so closely. Where do you place Kohli in comparison?
Very hard to judge when someone is playing and very hard to judge eras. Think about the bowlers in the ’90s. Different surfaces that seamed. Now they’re a lot flatter. The ball swung more. So many invariables. But to think that someone was better than Brian Lara and Sachin – in those mid-’90s – against Wasim, Waqar, Curtly, Courtney, McGrath, Donald, Saqlain, Mushy, Vettori, Murali, myself. You can go on.
Virat is breaking all the records, which is great but I want to wait. See, what people miss is this: You can set benchmarks, score those many centuries, average that high, score a lot many runs. But what people are going to remember you for is the way you played the game. Someone should run down the street and ask fans, how many runs did Mark Waugh make or what his average was? They wouldn’t have a clue but chances are, here’s what they’ll say: I loved watching him play. To my mind, what’s already evident is that Virat is one of the best players of all time. In One-dayers, he probably has to go down with Viv Richards as the greatest ever, not so much for the record but for the way he plays his game. But I’ll judge him at the end of his career.
DRS – you’re clearly not a fan…
Hang on. I think any improvement to the game that can help us get to the right decision is fine. I don’t mind. I’m a fan of DRS only if it is used right. And at the moment, I don’t think it is used right. It’s simple: Take away the original umpire’s decision. You can’t have exactly the same ball being given out and not out depending on what the onfield decision was. Identical deliveries: one results in ‘out’ and the other results in ‘not out’. That can’t be the case. It’s either out or not out, but because of what the on-field decision is, there can’t be two alternatives to the same delivery. If I bowl a ball and it hits the guy in front of the stumps, and the umpire says not out. I review and it says: The ball would’ve gone to hit the stumps. But it says ‘umpire’s call’. The next ball, I bowl exactly the same one, and the umpire says ‘it’s out’ – that’s wrong. The same ball can’t be out and not out. The simpler way to do it is take away the original decision of the umpire. If it’s hitting in line and hitting the stumps, it’s out – no matter what the umpire says.
Can it be applied against the force of nature?
I don’t know. I’m sure most deliveries are faster through the air. If it hits the pitch, it has to take off some pace. But if I think of Perth in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the ball seemed to always gather pace off the pitch. Maybe that was the swiftness from the bounce, I don’t know. But you’ve got to rely on science and they’ll have to tell whether that’s the case.
Those who operate the DRS during a match sit in the broadcast room, the TV umpire sits elsewhere, the match-referee sits elsewhere…
The DRS should be on their own, sitting alone, and maybe the fourth umpire should sit with them, to see they’re hitting the right button (laughs). But because of the telecast, you get to see all of that on the live feed. So, it’s pretty hard for anyone here to make a mistake. But yes, those who operate the DRS should be sitting alone so that you’re not influenced by anyone.
What’s that one rule you want changed?
1) Take away the on-field umpire’s decision on DRS; 2) Introduce the rule that if you don’t bowl your overs in time, the captain misses two games. You’ve got 90 overs in a day, if you miss them, the captain misses the next two games.
What if the game finishes in under-three days, like in the case of West Indies versus England?
Yes, (above should apply) unless the game finishes in less than 225 overs. Five days make way for 450 overs. So, if the match has lasted less than 225 overs, it’s OK. But there has to be a clampdown on over-rates. The flat rule should be that a team cannot bowl less than 90 overs in a day. If it’s a half-day’s play we’re talking about, do a pro-rata calculation.
Recently, Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul were in news for all the wrong reasons…
Yes. Good lord. As I said, it’s all about political correctness these days. If a player steps out of line, everybody has an opinion and I thought that this particular thing was ridiculous. Just let them be.
Should Australia keep looking for the next Shane Warne?
England, for a very long time, were looking for the next Ian Botham. India kept looking for the next Sachin for a long time. let people be themselves. I think Australia have a very good spinner in Nathan Lyon. He’s doing a great job. When people say things like that – ‘looking for the next Warne’ – what they actually mean is: ‘We want a character. We want somebody who brings fun into the game, makes it entertaining’.