Shane Keith Warne proposed, and God, as is his wont when it comes to controversy’s favourite child, disposed. It is said that if you want something badly, the entire universe conspires to make it happen. We would perhaps never know how badly Warne might have wanted the Australian captaincy, how wistfully he might have yearned for it – if at all. All we know is that the man rightly called thicker than a set of Wisden yearbooks and an eternal child by his critics left no stone unturned to spurn it, drive it away when it appeared within touching distance. Every time his monstrous talent and magical fingers talked, a text message, a pill of diuretic, a fag, a blonde, and his other eccentricities dragged him further away from the mantle. Not for nothing was he famously called a “frustrated captain” by a man who knows a thing or two about leading men – Graeme Smith.
Warne was, and still is, a perfect wonder, someone who could, and did, bowl six different deliveries in an over – leg-spinner, flipper, slider, googly, zooter and the floater – with as much authority as cheek. Of the field, he was a classic bon vivant, a showman who loved to indulge, beguile, and one who refused to adhere to the norms created by the “hypocritical world”.
We marveled at his on-field heroics, devoured his off-field tomfoolery, and chuckled at his glib maxims, and then made the mistake of intertwining these different facets to judge him, to dub him the agent provocateur who would be a misfit for the Australian captaincy. The flipside of which was, until now, we never saw and realized what we missed – the engaging spectacle of Warne-the captain.
In Warne's own head, this was an injustice. How ruthless he was on a field is no secret. In 2000, while leading Victoria, Warne gave hell to his mate Michael Slater when the latter's career was at the crossroads. Slater was battling marriage problems, his woeful form, and the allegation that he was a cocaine addict when Warne greeted him by singing ‘tick, tock, tick, tock, clearly calling time on Slater's innings and career! This showed how driven he was as captain and never gave no quarter. That is why the stifling of his captaincy ambitions because of his extramural activities was a bitter pill to swallow for him.
“I couldn't believe it is happening. My private life is my private life and it should not affect the cricketing side of things. A text message does not mean that I have lost my flipper or forgotten how to set a field,” Warne had said when he was stripped of the Australian vice-captaincy back in 2000.
At 39, more than a year after he hung his boots, the Gods have finally come around Although he still appears every bit of a maverick he is reputed to be with his wacky blonde mop, glittering ear studs, probing emerald eyes, impish smile and that fabled wit, there is something different about Warne.
Captaining Jaipur in the IPL, Warne has taken everyone by storm. The players are imbued with purpose and credit their skipper's contagious energy for this. Youngsters just cannot get enough of him and the older pros regret not having rubbed shoulders with him earlier. As a captain, he is meticulous, understated, easygoing and inspirational.
He has bowled with guile, batted with purpose and captained with acuity. He mingles with everyone and is personally guiding each player.
On Wednesday, he said that he wanted to show the world what the youngsters in his team are capable of. That statement was forceful and encapsulated his desire and passion. His captaincy in the tournament, in a way, has transcended everything else.