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September 14, 2002
The Rediff Cricket Interview/ Shane Warne
'Batting is very important for me'Shane Warne is responsible for, almost single-handedly, revitalising the art of leg spin bowling. Before the advent of this blond Victorian, most youngsters wanted to bowl fast. But after England's Mike Gatting received the ball of the century from him, cricket fields in Australia were filled with youngsters trying to bowl the googly or flipper.
Described by Australia's leg spin great Richie Benaud as 'the best leg-spinner I've ever seen', Warne, who has shed 10-12 kilos, says he hopes to play for another two years. In Colombo for the ICC Champions Trophy, he spoke to Assistant Editor Faisal Shariff about Australia's chances in the tournament and the great Sachin Tendulkar.
How are Australia's preparations coming along for the Champions Trophy?
Pretty good, actually. We played well in Kenya. We didn't lose a game and we bowled Pakistan out for 100 twice. We don't need to change much from that for this tournament. We just need to keep going and getting better and better. We don't need to do anything different. [Adam Gilchrist] Gilly got a few knocks in Kenya; Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie bowled well, and the outing was good for bowling at the death. I think Kenya was an ideal little lead-up to this tournament. We cleaned up our cobwebs and feel adjusted and ready for the first game.
New Zealand gave you guys a real scare last season and took the halo of the best in the world away from the Australians?
I think Stephen Fleming is the best captain in world cricket. He has plans for every single player and every situation. Last series in Australia, all the teams had won four games but the bonus points helped the Kiwis and we missed out. But, hopefully, we will get back at them in this tournament and knock them out.
We almost missed you at the team photo session. You look a lot thinner...
I have lost 10-12 kilos. The reason why I have lost weight is that I looked at the international schedule and thought that I wanted to play for another two years. It is a very hectic schedule and if I want to get through that then I have to be in the best shape that I can. I have been trying to lose weight for the last two-three months and it has gone really well. In the last 6-12 months I have been in the best form in quite a while. I got through a few cobwebs in my bowling, bowled some good spells in Kenya, bowled some average spells, but now I feel ready to go in the tournament.
Australia always has a psychological edge over South Africa?
The edge we have on them is that we beat them in all games we have played them, but for the tied game in the semi-finals of the 1999 World Cup. I think we have got the wood on South Africa, but that does not mean they are not a good team. They intimidate a lot of teams but we intimidate them. There is no disrespect for South Africa; they are a very good team.
You seem to have really improved on your batting average in the last season?
In the last 12-18 months I have worked a lot on it. All my coaches tell me that I have been under achieving. I was unlucky not to get a hundred, but I got a 99, a couple of eighties, a couple of seventies. I am happy with my batting. I worked a lot on the short ball. Have been practicing the pull and the hook shot a lot.
I worked with Ian Chappell and he helped me a lot. My only problem is the fear that opposition bowlers might go for my fingers and that's why I was scared of the short ball. Now I am struggling with the ball pitching up and swinging away. I just keep nicking that one. My slip catching is also improving as is my batting. I think the lay-off in 1999, when I didn't bowl, gave me time to work on my catching and batting.
Are you trying to fill-in the all-rounder's slot in the Aussie team?
Batting is very important for me, especially in Tests, where Gilly bats at number 7. It is very important that the tail-enders hang around. Number eight is such a crucial position to be in. You are always batting with a batsman or with Gilly. It is very important to form a partnership that I have managed to on several occasions.
Brett Lee is at nine and Jason Gillespie at ten. So we have a couple of handy players. If you are at 280 for 7, you can actually finish at 400. That is very crucial. Every run from the tail-ender is crucial.
Sri Lanka holds special memories for you? Your maiden match-winning performance came here, way back in 1993...
I love Sri Lanka. I played couple of Tests against India in 1991-92, in Australia, and then I came here for my first overseas tour in 1993. My first Test at the SSC [Sinhalese Sports Club] was amazing. I always enjoy coming here. It suits the spinners a lot. I love coming here. It is tough for the fast bowlers, but also for the spinners it can get tiring. It is hot and humid, and sweaty hands is a problem. But then you can work that out with the dirt. I absorb the sweat with a towel or rub it in the dirt. The wickets here turn big-time. The wickets can be slow, but if it is turning then it will be okay.
SRT [Sachin Tendulkar] has just played his 100th Test? You have always been in awe of his batting...
I don't think I have always been in awe of him. But I have respected his cricket and I like him off the field. We get along well off the field. We both have a lot of respect for each other. We both started our careers around the same time and I played my 101st Test match at Cape Town and he played his 100th at The Oval. We both have been around for a while now and we both admire each other.
To me he is the best player of our generation. I suppose people who have played with Don Bradman or Ian Chappell would say they are the best guys. But I don't think it is unfair to compare eras. Any good player in any era would adapt to it. If you put Matthew Hayden in the 1948 era or Arthur Morris in today's team and he would do just fine.
I think SRT, in the 12 years I have played, is the number one player, and there is daylight second. I like watching him bat irrespective of who the opposition is; whether it is me or someone else. I just wish I could bat like him. I have got him out four or five times and he has probably got 15 hundreds. So I think he is winning the battle there somewhere.
Warne's all-time best One-Day International XI
1. Mark Waugh
Rest of the world
1. Saeed Anwar
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