Welcome back Warnie!
Welcome back, Shane. It was like watching the Warnie of old on Sunday night as he let that carefully crafted veneer of calm, cool and collected respectability drop and showed us the competitive animal beneath.
Watching Warne gesticulate wildly at opponents and umpires alike, drop the F word, grab Marlon Samuels’ shirt and then aim a ball at his body was genuinely entertaining stuff.
I haven’t had so much fun watching a quasi-sporting event since Wrestlemania XVI where Triple H defeated The Big Show, Mick Foley and The Rock in a four way elimination match for the title.
No doubt the easily outraged will be appalled by his conduct but for many it was a welcome return of the real Shane Warne.
Fresh from a speeding controversy where he was alleged to have been driving at an insane 165 km/hour, Warne played in front of a record Twenty20 domestic crowd of 46,681 and though his team lost and his opposing captain Aaron Finch starred with the bat, Warne ensured that we’d still be talking about the clash days later. A rarity for the hit and giggle form of the game where little is remembered or savoured.
Whilst no one in their right mind would condone the reckless speeding that he stands accused of it is reminiscent of a time when Warne was never far from controversy as he dominated world cricket.
If the Stars and Renegades were playing again tonight, you could be certain they’d set another attendance record and TV ratings would go through the proverbial roof.
Indeed Warne’s shenanigans caused such a stir that a game between two Melbourne clubs made the front page of Sydney’s highest selling paper, The Daily Telegraph. Most years the AFL grand final struggles to achieve such a feat.
Critics have been quick to condemn his actions and show of poor sportsmanship and were dismayed by the lenient penalties handed out by Cricket Australia; despite facing four separate charges, Warne was fined a measly $4,500 and suspended for one game.
His adversary fared worse and will miss the rest of the T20 season with a fractured eye socket courtesy of a Lasith Malinga short ball that Samuels managed to top-edge on to his own face.
Interestingly Warne’s mates in Brisbane Heat coach Darren Lehmann and Adelaide Strikers coach Darren Berry have also been involved in spats with Samuels with Lehmann already sanctioned and Berry facing disciplinary action.
Either Samuels is a thoroughly unpleasant chap or as these three may be guilty of ganging up on him.
Certainly Warne and Berry as teammates in the Victorian side were infamous for their tag team sledging, managing to get under the skin of even the most experienced and accomplished players.
One incident that has become part of cricketing folklore involves the “tick, tock” verballing of Michael Slater who was known for his fiery temper. Warne and Berry playing on this perception started saying tick and tock alternately suggesting that he was a time bomb about to go off.
When Slater eventually succumbed to the pressure and was caught out the two mates yelled out “Kaboom.”
The naysayers, and I’ve been one over the years, don’t understand the Australian public’s immense reserves of goodwill for Warne. No matter what he does, he is soon absolved of responsibility. It’s a unique phenomenon, a kind of reversal of the tall poppy syndrome.
If truth be told we expect Warnie to stuff up, it’s part of his charm and we love him for it. And given the litany of past transgressions, he can be sure that this latest furore won’t cause too much damage to the Warne brand.
That is not to say his misdemeanours haven’t compromised his career, many cricket experts maintain that Warne is the greatest captain Australia never had. And it was his off field indiscretions that ensured that despite his brilliant cricketing brain he would never have the honour of leading the Australian team.
He lost the vice-captaincy after yet another sexual scandal involving a British nurse and a series of lewd text messages.
What we saw during the spiteful Melbourne derby was in stark contrast to the image that Warne has presented to the media and his fans in the past three years.
He has reinvented himself as a wine drinking, school lunch making, bad joke telling metrosexual who tweets incessantly about his love for fiancé, Elizabeth Hurley and his three children with ex-wife Simone Callahan.
Ironically Warne’s twitter profile proclaims that he has “found balance and calm.” There wasn’t much of either on display at the MCG on Sunday night.
The Stars face a do or die clash against the winless Sydney Thunder tonight. A win gives them a chance of securing a semi-final spot where fans can again be regaled by Warne bringing a touch of the sports entertainment magic of the WWE to the aptly named Big Bash League.
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