The Rajasthan Royals captain is still Australia's best spin bowling option even at the age of 41.
Shane Warne is still missed long after international retirement
NEW DELHI // Shane Warne, the best captain Australia never had, is also a spinner the team still miss.
At the age of 41, Warne has shown in the fourth season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) that he can dominate batsmen and make breakthroughs, something that his replacements in the Australia team cannot seem to match.
Australia have the likes of Jason Krejza, Xavier Doherty and Steven Smith in the spin department, which was seen as the weak link during a World Cup campaign that ended in the quarter-finals.
Warne has been among the wickets in the IPL, where he plays for the Rajasthan Royals, and is joint-third on the wicket-takers' list in 2011 with five.
Even Michael Clarke, the new Australia captain, admits Warne is still missed four years after retirement. "The one thing we need to continue to remember though is we're never going to get another Shane Warne," Clarke said of his team's spin attack in an interview Monday with Cricinfo after their victorious one-day series in Bangladesh that ended last week.
Warne finished with one for 17 in four overs against Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday after impressive returns of two for 21 versus Deccan Chargers and two for 17 against Delhi Daredevils in earlier matches.
"I haven't been fit since I was 12," Warne said after hitting form straight away in the tournament. "I just have to bowl four overs, so I can't get too tired."
The talismanic spinner looks fit for international cricket and is among a few who continue to lead a side for the fourth consecutive year in the IPL.
Warne, who is the second highest wicket-taker in Tests after Muttiah Muralitharan with 708 wickets and has also taken 293 in one-dayers, has also had the additional job of coach for Rajasthan.
Players swear by the way he encourages them and compatriot Shane Watson, who hit a world record 15 sixes in a one-dayer in Bangladesh last week, is among those to credit him for a revival with the IPL three years ago.
It is no surprise fans have called for his return to Australia's Test side, with an online campaign starting up during last year's Ashes series defeat by England.
However, those calls were all made in vain. "My general fitness is as good as it has ever been, I have worked hard on that lately," Warne said. "But toiling away for long spells and backing up the next day takes time, practice, lots of physiotherapy and even more dedication," he wrote in a column during the Ashes.
Warne, though, conceded that he did give a thought to making a comeback.
"I must admit it did cross my mind, but then I woke up in London, where it was snowing, and realised I was only dreaming," Warne said.
Warne is expected to continue playing in the IPL after being retained by his team for the next three years and with a renewed focus on fitness.
"I am 86 kg. Lost 7kg and close to being the fittest I have ever been," he said in a post on his Twitter feed over the weekend. "Fitness and being healthy is now a daily habit, I feel great and never been happier in my life."