Shane Warne will retire as a player at the end of this IPL season. He'll leave with only one regret, that he didn't captain Australia on a long term basis. When he did captain the Australian One Day side he was extremely successful; ten wins out of 11 matches is an exceptional record.
However, it's more than wins and losses with Warne's captaincy. He makes the game interesting for his players and that translates into exciting cricket for the fans. It's just like when he bowls; there's an air of expectancy with every ball.
The first time I saw him captain was for Victoria in a Super Eight match up in North Queensland. The opposition required six runs to win off the last over and Victoria needed a couple of wickets. With only seven fielders at his disposal, Warne shunned containment and gave the bowler, Damien Fleming, some catching men. By taking the two wickets with aggressive tactics, Victoria pulled off a stunning victory.
Warne utilised similar tactics to win the inaugural IPL competition with a Rajasthan Royals side that wasn't highly rated at the start. This was another triumph for aggressive captaincy. But there's much more to Warne's leadership than just his on-field tactics.
He empowered players by putting them in a position to have success. This then boosted them not only in the eyes of their team-mates but also in their own estimation. He also went out of his way to make junior players feel part of the team.
Some will say Warne only has himself to blame for not captaining Australia more often. There's no disputing Warne made his share of mistakes off the field but he doesn't shy away from them. He once cried off a dinner invitation, saying he's taking his kids out. "I maybe a shit husband," he admitted, "but I'm a good father."
There are very few cricketers who are irreplaceable; the only two who come readily to mind are Sir Donald Bradman and Sir Garfield Sobers. Warne isn't quite irreplaceable but he's close. The Royals are wise to announce they're retaining his services. If anyone can mentor the next Warne, it would be Shane Keith himself.