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Don?t put the blame on Warne

When is it a case of a player letting down the sport rather than the game short-changing the athlete? There?s often a fine line and in the case of Shane Warne, it?s probably fair to apportion the blame 50-50.

india Updated: Aug 23, 2003 13:36 IST

When is it a case of a player letting down the sport rather than the game short-changing the athlete? There’s often a fine line and in the case of Shane Warne, it’s probably fair to apportion the blame 50-50. Warne has been cricket’s greatest promoter in the last decade, responsible for far more than reviving flagging interest in the art of leg-spin and curiosity in the game in Australia.

During that time, his ability and charisma provided the game with it’s broadest publicity since the days of Ian Botham. Unfortunately, much like the English allrounder, as his career progressed, more and more publicity has been of the negative variety. Warne’s career has taken an almost parallel path to Botham’s.

There’s a point where a player has to recognise he’s responsible for his own actions but equally important is that the sport has a duty of care to ensure that in their formative years, cricketers aren’t allowed to slip into a lifestyle from which they find it difficult to extricate themselves. Cricket failed both Warne and Botham — neither was advised on the pitfalls of fame.

It could be argued that Sachin Tendulkar probably wasn’t instructed in this area either but he is the exception rather than the rule. Brian Lara was heading down the same destructive path but he has responded with great maturity to his second stint as captain.

It’s worth reflecting on what might have happened if Cricket Australia had appointed Warne captain after Mark Taylor. He had the potential to be outstanding. This may seem nonsensical in the light of his transgressions but the bulk of those misdemeanours occurred after that opportunity passed.

The extra responsibility may have been the perfect prod to jolt him out of any off-field complacency. Had CA appointed him captain and given him a minder to protect him from himself, the whole Warne saga could have been so different.

Some would argue that appointing a minder for a captain is tantamount to giving Dr Christian Barnard a diagram of the heart. Because he has to be mature enough to handle other players — it’s assumed that if someone can’t control himself he’s not leadership material.

That argument has some merit but probably isn’t applicable in the modern game. And anyway there is a precedent: CA gave Allan Border with a minder in Bob Simpson. The difference was Simpson offered Border assistance on cricket matters. Warne has one of the best cricket brains in the business and his need is for off-field guidance.

Even if CA didn’t appoint him captain there’s still a case for claiming they were negligent in not providing him with a minder at the first sign of intrusive publicity. Warne wasn’t making enough money to pay for an escort but once his earnings escalated, CA could have transferred responsibility to him.

Far from the way he’s often portrayed Warne isn’t stupid. The wonderful cricket brain that whirrs away on the field doesn’t suddenly desert him the moment he steps off the grass but the likeable larrikin remains an inherent risk taker no matter his whereabouts.

His biggest mistake is being naïve enough to believe he could remain a knock-about-bloke in a world that perceived him as a superstar. Shane grew up in an atmosphere where he had fun playing sport and then had a good time with his mates. He shouldn’t shoulder the entire blame for trying to live the same uncomplicated life as an adult.