secret Test weapon is a master of the art of leg spin.
Imagine it. You're picked for your country after seven first-
class games, a shock selection, all your dreams have come
true. All except the happy ending. In the first game you drop
the opposition opener on 66 off your own bowling and at 100
off someone else's; he goes on to make 206, you take 1 for
150 and only the rain saves your team from defeat against a
side they have been hammering all summer.
Worse follows, in the next game you take 0 for 78 and are
dropped. Then, taken on tour, you have another 107 runs hit
off your bowling in what are supposed to be helpful conditions.
At that point, 335 runs conceded for one wicket taken, Shane
Warne's nagging belief that he did not belong in Test cricket
preyed ever more heavily on his mind. He wondered aloud:
"What am I doing here?" Here was Colombo, the time last August,
with Australia batting and slipping towards a first defeat to
Sri Lanka. Sitting next to him, Allan Border told him to stick
at it: "I'm a great believer in guys who hang in there, one
day it'll click for you."
It did the following day as Border, his other bowlers ex-
hausted, turned to the young leg-spinner in an act of faith
that was part courage, part desperation. Warne responded with
three wickets in 11 balls as Australia snatched the Test. He
said he felt the "weight of the world lift off his shoulders".
In December he won the second Test against the West Indies in
Melbourne with a spell of 7 for 21, in March he took 7 for 86
against New Zealand in Christchurch. Last week England joined
the list of countries who have fallen to Warne. A happy end-
ing after all.
Except Warne is only 23: we are just in the opening chapters.
His art is supposed to take years to perfect. Bob Holland and
Trevor Hohns, his predecessors on Ashes tours, were both look-
ing towards retirement when they had their finest hours. Ian
Salisbury, four months younger and England's only competitor,
may be as capable of bowling a wicket-taking ball but is way
off achieving the sustained accuracy that makes Warne so
dangerous. Salisbury however, began at 17, Warne at 12. India's
Anil Kumble, 22, has the accuracy but lacks the turn and vari-
ation of Warne. Only Mushtaq Ahmed, also 22, rivals him and
the New Zealand captain, Martin Crowe, having played both,
Warne believes he now has nine different deliveries. His deve-
lopment is a tribute to the far-sighted and broad-minded atti-
tudes of the Australian national set-up as well as his own
efforts and ability. Not many selectors would have retained
faith in Warne after his poor debut series against India(Ravi
Shastri was the double-centurion involved). But then they had
already picked Warne out as a talent to persevere with.
Born in Melbourne, Warne progressed through Australia's test-
ing grade-cricket system to be selected for the Cricket Aca-
demy in 1990-91, along with Damien Martyn. That season he won
his way into the state side, but left the academy after being
left out of a tour of Sri Lanka for disciplinary reasons.
Before leaving, he played against the England tourists and
dismissed Robin Smith.
Like Smith, the West Indies find leg-spinners harder to deal
with than throat-cutters, and with Australia's quest to
defeat them reaching Ashes status the search was on for a
young leggie to face them the following season. With that in
mind, Warne was sent to Zimbabwe in September 1991 with an
Australian XI under Mark Taylor, along with Peter McIntyre.
Both were struggling to get into a Victorian attack based on
seam bowling, but although the Test selector John Benaud's
report favoured McIntyre, Warne resisted blandishments from
New South Wales team-mates to move to their helpful Sydney
track, choosing to fight it out for a Victorian place.
He succeeded quickly enough to be picked to play for an
Australian XI against the West Indies, who were on a mini-
tour, taking 7 for 56 to keep the selectors' long-term plan
on line. That match not only earned him his Test debut a month
later and the selectors' support, it was also significant for
a change in his own attitudes. At that stage Warne was a mess
physically. Three stone overweight, with a diet of junk food
and lager, he was a liability in the field and a larrikin off
The day before the game, Bobby Simpson, Australia's coach,
put him through the wringer at fielding practice. By the end
Warne was a gasping wreck, unable to waddle after the simplest
catch, the laughter of his new team-mates, who included six
Test caps, ringing in his ears. But he still got wickets and,
fortified by that, set about losing weight, more than 30lb in
all, and improving his fielding. The result is what the Sun
describes as ''a hunk'' although ''Hollywood'', as he is nick-
named, is not the hell-raiser he was. It was announced yester-
day, in fact,that he has just proposed to his fiancee, Simone.
Simpson, no mean leg-spinner himself, believes Warne can get
even better. ''He bowled better in Sri Lanka than in Man-
chester,'' he said. ''He is still serving his apprenticeship
and is learning so much. He had a difficult debut, the Indian
batsmen are as good at playing leg-spin as anyone, but we
don't just pick a player for one Test, we picked him for the
What a novel idea . . .
Thanks ::: The Independent
UMass, June 18, 1993