The publication by Shane Warne of his widely circulated “manifesto” has led to much social media comment and both support and derision from current and former players, commentators and fans alike. Shane Warne is a legend of the game and is entitled to his opinion about the state of Australian cricket. He is entitled, as a public citizen, to give his opinion about everything from poker to potato chips if he so wishes. I make no comment (save for what follows), affirmative or otherwise, about the strategies Warne suggests: plenty of others have already done so.
The question that I have been turning over in my mind though since the publication of the “manifesto” is whether its publication represents a new beginning for Shane Warne as a statesman of the game or it is simply a footnote of an inglorious summer for a fading champion. Before answering that conundrum, it is important to consider the summer it has been for Warne.
Shane Warne’s summer of cricket started with an attempt to lift the profile of the Big Bash League via making himself available for the Ashes and then immediately withdrawing his availability again after ticket sales went through the roof for the first Melbourne Stars fixture of the summer. Such a transparent attempt at self promotion was followed by two overs of long hops and full tosses that lead to 40 runs being taking off his bowling in a game he so disingenuously sought to promote.
This extravaganza of self interest was followed by a mid-season break to return “home” to England to celebrate the festive season with Ms Hurley which left man pundits and fans alike scratching their heads and questioning his committment to the game. This was particularly so given that the “other” great spinner in the competition, a bloke from Sri Lanka who holds the record for most wickets in history, didn’t see the need to return home to his family and stayed in Melbourne to play for his franchise during the same period.
Then of course we move to the “battle of Melbourne” between Warne and Marlon Samuels. Regardless of who was the instigator of this most unseemly of incidents, for Warne, in his capacity as an “elder” of the game, it could not have been a worse moment to abuse a fellow player and to act in a fashion unbecoming of a sportsman at any level. It ought not be forgotten that in the aftermath of the “battle” Warne also displayed a lack of contrition that was as overt as it was unsurprising. It should also be remembered that his paramour Ms Hurley saw fit to weigh in on the debate via twitter.
The penultimate act of the summer from Shane Warne came in the semi-final of the BBL: setting aside Mr Warne’s failure to read the rules of the competition this was a game in which the greatest leg spinner bowler of all time took the field and did not bowl. A man with greater than 700 wickets in test match cricket chose not to bowl himself in a sudden death match when his team needed him the most.
All of these factors combined leads one to the conclusion that it has been a season to forget for Shane Warne. It should also not be forgotten that before the “Warne manifesto” was published followers of @warne888 were submitted to reading the various complaints of Warne about the state of the Australian cricket team (amongst the spruiking of his poker tournament and declaring his love for Ms Hurley) ending with the declaration that the powers that be in the game are “muppets”.
With that statement made, the manifesto was born and that leads us back to the current day and the publication of the “Warne manifesto”. It goes without saying that he makes some valid points. It also goes without saying that some of his suggests are so impossible in reality as to border on lunacy. That said, regardless of where you stand on the validity or otherwise of the statements made by Warne, the unmistakable truth is that until Shane Warne decides to stop his international globetrotting with his partner, Ms Hurley, his poker playing and appearances at celebrity golf tournaments and return to Australia and make himself available to be a selector or a coach his manifesto will be considered nothing more than the hot air it actually is. This is because, no matter who you look at it,the “Warne Manifesto” has the look of the work of someone content to sit on the sidelines and throw stones rather than roll up his sleeves and offer real assistance.
If the “Warne manifesto” was an attempt by its author to push himself forward as a statesman of the game, the failure of the author to actually take action rather than snipe condemns it to be nothing more than a footnote of an inglorious summer for an obviously fading star of the game. It is that inglorious summer that has the potential to tarnish Warne’s reputation for a long time to come.
I have the same fears for cricket in Australia as Shane Warne does but unlike him I am not in a position to do anything about it. The time for talk is over and the time for action is now. Shane Warne should be given kudos for trying but he is not the emissary of change cricket in this country needs. I hope such an emissary appears from the slipstream of Shane Warne’s attempt but I have to concede I am not hopeful.