x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

He bowled them all over

Shane Warne called it a career after 19 years, taking one wicket for 30 runs for the Rajasthan Royals against the Mumbai Indians and just briefly showing a flash of the form that made him a legend as a bowler.

Shane Warne signals his approval on a career. The Australian great, who underwhelmed on his debut with Australia in 1992, finished one for 30 for Rajasthan. ‘Shane is a true champion,’ said Sachin Tendulkar.
Shane Warne signals his approval on a career. The Australian great, who underwhelmed on his debut with Australia in 1992, finished one for 30 for Rajasthan. ‘Shane is a true champion,’ said Sachin Tendulkar.

It did not spin quite as prodigiously as the ball to Mike Gatting which catapulted him to stardom, and there was not quite the same bemused look on Rohit Sharma's face, but Shane Warne gave his magical spinning fingers one last rip to ensure he signed off his competitive career with a wicket yesterday. You just knew he would.

Introducing himself for the final over, Warne risked walking off into the sunset with similarly ignominious figures to those he marked his international debut with - one for 150 against India in 1992 - with Rohit having just passed his half-century and targeting an assault off the final six balls of the innings.

But even though there was very little at stake for Warne - Rajasthan Royals had failed to make it to the play-offs long before last night's match with Mumbai Indians - he managed to stir his competitive juices for one last time, creating his own drama by producing the kind of big leg-spin delivery that gave batsmen sleepless night and established him as arguably the greatest player to ever grip a ball.

The first four balls of his last over were unremarkable - a tossed up delivery which was dropped at long on, a big wrong-un which James Franklin clubbed for four and then a rank long hop that should have disappeared for a boundary but only yielded one run. It looked as if the master had chosen the right time to bow out. But then Warne, being Warne, unfurled a fizzing delivery that coaxed Rohit down the wicket, beat him in the flight and allowed Pinal Shah to whip off the bails.

It was vintage Warne. Pinal is unlikely to have as easy a dismissal in the rest of his career but he will always fondly remember the day he helped the great Australian claim the final of a remarkable career.

One ball later, Warne, ever the showman, kept the crowd waiting while he tinkered with his field, strategically moving both fielders behind the wicket to prepare for his final ball at competitive level.

It was a full toss which James Franklin respectfully drove for one. His final ball will not live long in the memory but his legacy will. He will be remembered as one of the greatest players of all time - and in the eyes of many second only to legendary batsman Don Bradman in Australian cricket.

After his underwhelming debut against India in Sydney in '92 - which gave no hint of the stellar career to follow - Warne knuckled down under his mentor, Terry Jenner, and 18 months later captured the cricketing world's attention with the "ball of the century" against England.

He finished his career, in 2007, by becoming the first player to take 700 Test wickets. Ironically, his final match pitted him against Sachin Tendulkar, arguably the greatest batsman of all time.

"Shane is a true champion, he is a wonderful friend," Tendulkar said yesterday. "I have not had the privilege of playing with him in the same team. I wish him all the best for the future."

Warne turns 42 in September and his retirement is expected to include more sports commentating for television, commercial work, charity and possibly coaching.

Among other things, he has an advertising deal with McDonald's in Australia, promotes a poker website and also finds time to design a range of men's underwear.

"My decision to retire has got nothing to do with my bowling," Warne said. "I think I'm still bowling pretty well, it's more about all the other stuff and time," he told NDTV. "I want to do some other stuff in my life. I'm 42 this year, I'm in a great place in life, both personally and [from] the business point of view, I just want to thank everyone who supported me."

Warne bowed out yesterday with figures of one for 30 and Shane Watson, his fellow Rajasthan teammate and compatriot, told The Melbourne Age yesterday: "The way Warney is bowling now, he would continue to dominate world cricket. If he ever came out of retirement, which he's not going to do, he would still dominate."

There will be countless batsman around the world relieved Warne has finally hung up his spikes.