Warne : The World Best Leg-spinner?

Warne : The World Best Leg-spinner?

Post by VIGNE.. » Sun, 20 Jun 1993 07:31:05

Australian bowler's big break threatens to dumbfound all England
and lead world revival Maverick turning leg-spin back into a
fashionable art

By Christopher Martin-Jenkins

People tend to forget prophecies which fail to come to pass,
but, for spot-on prediction, Bobby Simpson's assessment of
Shane Warne, made at Worcester well in advance of his match-
winning performance in the first Test at Old Trafford, was
almost biblical. "He'll turn the ball from the first ball
of every Test. He's the best leg-spinner of 23 I've ever
seen." It was because Warne turned the first ball he bowled
at Manchester two feet to bowl a dumbfounded Mike Gatting
that England got into a mental as well as technical tizzy
against him. It is why, when the selectors meet tonight to
pick their team for the second Test at Lord's next week, they
will be anxious to include at least one left-handed batsman.
If David Gower, not Gatting, had received that first ball,
it might have given him a *** shock, but it would very
unlikely have bowled him. Facing Warne out of the rough in
the second innings would not have been easy, but nor would
Warne have enjoyed having to switch his line, aware that a
left-hander pushing well forward would be unlucky to be given
lbw, and that to anything pitched straight, far more shots
would be available than for the right-handers. That England's
selectors, well briefed about Warne's prodigious power of
spin, should have seen all this in advance does not concern
me here. The potential for Warne to lead a wholesale revival
of the art of wrist-spin round the world over the next 10 years
certainly does. When Ian Salisbury becomes a regular member of
the England attack, which, with luck, he should and will, four
of the nine Test-playing countries will be including young leg-
spinners. For batsmen from all countries, the wrist-spinner,
as in England, causes chronic unease born simply of complete
unfamiliarity with the art. We all fear the unknown. Warne
and Salisbury are both 23, Anil Kumble and Mushtaq Ahmed both
only 22. Each has different qualities but none gives the ball
such a vicious rip as Warne does and with his blond hair ("not
so much of the peroxide, mate, its natural," he says) and
diamond-studded ear, he should attract the young. He may look
a playboy and off the field he has certainly enjoyed himself on
the way to being a national hero, but he is intelligent, as his
sparing use of the googly and his other variations - top-spinner
and flipper - shows. Against Graeme Hick at Worcester he refused
to bowl anything but leg-breaks, preferring, apparently certain
of his Test place, to plant doubt in Hick's mind about the major
matches even as Hick was cracking him to all parts of the ground
on the way to 187. For sheer ability to turn the ball, Warne
has probably had no equal since "Chuck" Fleetwood-Smith, the
Australian who started life as a fast right-armer but became
famous as a left-arm googly bowler. The England leg-spinner, Ian
Peebles, wrote of him: "His trouble was, not unnaturally, lack
of control, but on his day he could be all but unplayable to all
but the highest class." Peebles recalled how, in the match
against Victoria in 1932-33, Wally Hammond was commissioned
to go out and destroy him. He did so and Fleetwood-Smith was not
picked for another three years. A pity for England that Hick's
onslaught did not have a similar effect. One reason is that Warne
does not lose control as often as Fleetwood-Smith, nor give the
batsman respite with a frequent bad ball, as Salisbury is still
inclined to do. The West Indians noticed a big improvement in
this respect during last winter's series in Australia and Carl
Hooper says Warne has "come on in leaps and bounds" even since the
end of the Australian season. "When we played him in an early match
before the Tests he lacked control and gave us a few too many loose
ones," Hooper says. "But he bowled very well in Melbourne [one for
65 and seven for 52] and I was very impressed with what I saw on
the television from Old Trafford. "I don't think I've ever seen
anyone turn the ball more, but he's not too difficult to read. We
were lucky to have a couple of left-handers against him; especially
Brian Lara, who never let him settle. I think England's batsmen are
lacking a little bit of confidence at the moment." Just a little.
They were warned - no pun, for once, intended - by no less a batsman
than Martin Crowe, following Australia's tour of New Zealand in
which Warne took 17 wickets in three Tests - that he was something
special. Crowe's advice, conveyed via Dennis Amiss to Keith
Fletcher before Old Trafford, was that Warne is unusual in that
he makes the ball turn across the right-handed batsman, often from
outside leg- stump, rather than pitching middle-and-off or off-
stump, like most of his kind. Forewarned or not, Gatting was taken
aback by the first ball Warne bowled - who would not have been? -
and although, by the second innings, the England batsmen had
worked out that they could safely put their pads to anything
pitched in the same area, Warne was already varying his line
better and a ball pitched outside the off-stump was not
necessarily the googly. WARNE was brought up in an expensive
Melbourne suburb on the sea and says that, although he  preferred
Aussie Rules football at first, "by the age of 16 my ambition
was to play cricket for Australia". He won a scholarship to the
Adelaide Cricket Academy (government financed) and prepared for
life there by playing league cricket in Bristol, acquiring such a
taste for English pub fare that he put on two stones. The Academy
coaches thought he was a spoilt boy and sacked him, but he played
his first match for Victoria in 1991 and spent the following
summer at Accrington in the Lancashire League. He had played only
five first-class matches and taken only 15 wickets when the
Australian selectors picked him to play against India in the
Sydney Test of January, 1992. Warne, after chastening figures of
one for 150 against India, was given a second chance at the
Academy by Rod Marsh, gave up the beer, started early morning
running, swimming, gym-work and boxing and lost those two stones.
He also spent the winter practising his bowling art with another
ex-larrikin leg-spinner, Terry Jenner. Picked to go to Sri Lanka
last August, Warne took three for nought with his last 11 balls
to win a match Australia had looked certain to lose. In all
three of the games his country have won since - against the West
Indies at Melbourne, New Zealand at Christchurch and England at
Old Trafford - he has been outstanding. As Simpson says: "He is
proving to youngsters that leg-spin isn't old-fashioned." Leg-
spinners often become less effective once they become familiar,
but the England batsmen need to sort him out soon if the beaming
face of "Hollywood" Warne is not to be the very symbol of
Australian success this season.

Thanks   :::  The Daily Telegraph


UMass, June 18, 1993