It seems a long time ago that we had Test cricketers with the personality and sheer entertainment value of Shane Warne.
I may be wrong, but it is almost as if players have, for the most part, been herded into a regulated “sameness” that discourages overt displays of originality. Perhaps that is due to the intense media scrutiny they find themselves under.
A new documentary on Australian leg-spin legend Shane Warne looks set to remind us of what we have lost, but at the same time it leaves us appreciating the true-blue characters of the game. Let us hope we will see more of his like sometime soon.
I don’t personally know Shane, so my observations come from the “outside”, and are purely based on what I have read and seen. He has always fascinated me and is certainly someone that I would love to know.
Straight and to the point, the full-length film is simply titled Shane, and was released on digital download in the UK recently. And the reviews of it suggest it is a must-see for every sports enthusiast. I am not sure if it is available in South Africa yet and something that I am looking forward to.
“I liked loud music, I smoked, I drank and bowled a bit of leg-spin,” Warney says in characteristic fashion. “I don’t have any regrets.”
Well, there were plenty of things – as more comprehensively highlighted in his compelling autobiography – No Spin, written with the assistance of Mark Nicholas – that I am sure Shane Warne would manage differently if he could go back in time. But, just like every single one of us, he is a fallible human being who makes mistakes.
One thing is certain: Shane Keith Warne has packed a lot of “life” into his life. Perhaps he could best be characterised as someone who wasn’t afraid to “have a go” – at just about everything and anything. And, most of the time, his innate self-confidence has served him well.
The film also offers insights into what his peers thought of him; greats of the game like (Lord) Ian Botham share their views, while his friendship with fellow celebs, like superstar singer Ed Sheeran, is an example of how well Shane has fitted into the celebrity world.
There are also closer-to-home interviews with his ex-wife Simone Callahan (a 10-year marriage) and their three children – Jackson (22), Summer (24) and Brooke (20).
Shane’s relationship with actress and model Elizabeth Hurley was plagued by unrelenting media attention; the demands of different career paths meant much time apart – and was probably the primary cause of their eventual break-up.
It’s interesting that despite all the hurt his indiscretions caused, the 52-year-old Shane has still managed to maintain a pretty good relationship with all those closest to him – and just about everyone else who has crossed his path in what has been an action-packed life.
Born in the Melbourne suburb of Upper Ferntree Gully on 13 September 1969 – Shane is certainly a fascinating person. A natural storyteller, Warney was a certainty for a media role after his playing days were over.
The insights he offers on his own life, his thoughts on his evolution as a cricketer, reveal a man who is perceptive when it comes to the subjects he knows so well – and who has a caring side to him that may not be readily apparent to the casual onlooker.
Warney was a hugely competitive, evolving cricketer who explored, developed and employed every weapon he could in his bowling armoury. He certainly had an early appreciation of how body language could be used as an additional advantage in the leg-spinner’s bag of tricks.
Something that came as a complete surprise to me was the revelation that, at just six years of age, both his legs were broken in a playground accident. His dad made a trolley for him, and the determined way Shane propelled himself around, using just his hands and wrists (which became immensely strong), for six long months suggest – in hindsight – perhaps an early indication of the person, and type of cricketer, he was destined to become.
With Shane it has been, at times, a constant battle between his “up for anything” persona and his more thoughtful side.
It would serve us well to understand that nothing prepares a person for the all-encompassing attention that celebrity brings.
As Shane says in another interview: “People meet the headline and not the person. It’s confusing and potentially derailing. My personal life has been played out on the front pages, back pages, the women’s magazines.
“Sitting on my balcony, and I get papped (photographed by a member of the paparazzi) with my shirt off… I said, ‘Are you serious? I’ve got my big fat guts out on the balcony’.
“I resented it (the constant attention) for a while. I understand it now, but to try and deal with it every single day might be hard to understand.
“When you grow up you think fame could be pretty cool. When I was 21, 22 years of age I had my first exposure to it. There’s no school you can go to, to learn about it. You’ve just got to try and do your best to learn and deal with it.”
Always up for a bit of fun, part of his enduring appeal is that he is able to laugh at himself. And he is honest, admitting, that he was selfish in his pursuit of cricketing immortality – and family did take a back seat at times.
A magical spin bowler, yes. As a dad and partner? Quite a handful but, one suspects, well worth the “extra effort” in the end.
Never boring, that’s for sure.
How do you pick the ultimate Test cricket team from a cast of incredibly talented performers that must run into the hundreds who have excelled over the ages?
To coincide with the World Test Championship final that is currently taking place between India and New Zealand in Southampton, former England opening batsman and media pundit Geoffrey Boycott had a go in a recent article in The Telegraph and backed up his reasons why.
Feature photo: Gary Sobers of the West Indies. Supremely gifted all-rounder.
Geoff did not include one South African in his two teams, so I had a go at picking an All-Time SA Test match XI as well as two All-Time KZN Schools XI’s.
Geoff picked two match-day squads of 12 for an imaginary “Ultimate Test Match of Test Matches” and had to look at the candidates from all countries as well as the different eras. The 11 ultimately chosen out of the 12 would depend on the pitch – to opt for two spinners or one. He opted to not consider any current players.
And in his pragmatic way, Geoff made the following crucial distinction, which I think is the only way to compare players whose careers can be more than 100 years apart: “It is unfair to judge players only on figures. They all have great numbers, so to be fair I judge them against contemporaries from their own eras.” I tried to do the same with my teams.
When one considers that the likes of Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock, Mike Procter, Ian Botham, Hashim Amla, Curtly Ambrose, Michael Holding and Kapil Dev didn’t get the nod in either of Geoff’s squads of 12, you can see the embarrassment of riches available.
Geoffrey’s Ultimate Test Team One
Opening batsmen (1) Jack Hobbs and (2) Herbert Sutcliffe: “The finest opening pair in history,” says Geoff. The pair opened the batting for England a total of 38 times and their average number of runs scored per innings was 85.81 before a wicket fell. No Test match opening pair has ever done better than that, says Geoff. “To get that sort of start – on average – is like winning the pools.”
3. Don Bradman (Australia, captain): “A run scorer, a unique genius who was twice as good as the rest of us and is captain of this team. There is nothing else to add.”
4. George Headley (West Indies): Headley only played in 22 Test matches over a 10-year period yet was able to peel off 10 Test match centuries. “The Aussies dubbed him the black Bradman,” says Geoff.
5. Sachin Tendulkar (India): “Technically superb, with the performances to match against all types of bowling,” says Geoff. “Mastered his era and handled the pressure of expectation from India’s fanatical supporters.”
6. Gary Sobers (West Indies): Significantly, Geoff describes this ultimate all-rounder as the best batsman he has ever seen. And apart from his batting, “He [Sobers] was originally selected as an orthodox left-arm spinner but later in his career bowled left-arm lively swing which could be devastating. A great catcher anywhere close in.”
7. Alan Knott (England): “Lovely hands. Missed very little,” says Geoff. “I judge wicketkeepers on what they miss, not just how many they catch. How many catches or stumpings a gloveman takes is dependent on how many catches and stumpings the bowlers create. Got important runs when his team was in trouble, too.”
8. Shane Warne (Australia): “Natural wicket taker with amazing control,” says Geoff. “Generated a huge amount of spin with very, very few bad balls. Before he hurt his shoulder his flipper was devastating.”
9. Jim Laker (England): “For balance, I want a spinner turning the ball the other way. If it spun, Laker [an off-spinner] bowled teams out. He didn’t bowl the doosra because he didn’t need it. On dry turning pitches or a wet pitch that was drying he was nigh-on unplayable. On flat pitches you still couldn’t get after him.”
10. Sydney (SF) Barnes (England): As Geoff says, Surrey and England wicketkeeper Herbert Strudwick describes Barnes thus: “He was the best I ever kept to. He sent down something different each ball and he could turn it either way in remarkable fashion.” The great Australian batsman Clem Hill said: “On a perfect pitch Barnes could swing the ball late, in and out, and spin it.”
11. Malcolm Marshall (West Indies): “Bowled very fast, with movement,” says Geoff. “Could and did sometimes cut his pace down and seam the ball around at a lively pace within himself. On subcontinent pitches he was highly successful because he was skiddy without losing pace. Tall guys banging it in on those pitches can have the life sucked out of the delivery.”
12. Dennis Lillee (Australia): “Very fast, very smart, very skilful – and he had a big heart,” says Geoff. “Wonderful control – a complete fast bowler.”
Geoffrey’s Ultimate Test Team Two
1. WG Grace (England): “Some people could say Grace played in an era of underarm bowling that evolved to round-arm bowling. But on poor pitches open to the British weather, the ball often jumped up at your face or shot along the deck! He took 3 000 first-class wickets and scored 54 896 runs with 126 hundreds. He was the first man to score 100 hundreds. Compare his deeds with his contemporaries and he was way above anyone else. He was a natural athlete and in 1866 won the National 440 yards title and two days later scored 244 not out for Gloucester against Surrey at the Oval.”
2. Len Hutton (England): “A great England and Yorkshire batsman but Hobbs and Sutcliffe as a pair have to play together, so Len opens the batting with WG,” says Geoff.
3. Viv Richards (West Indies): “The best at number 3 but even he can’t be above Bradman in the other XI,” says Geoff. “Brutal, devastating, a tremendous competitor who was a great of his era. A giant in a fantastic team.”
4. Wally Hammond (England): “Hammond and Bradman didn’t get on during the 1946 friendship tour of Australia,” says Geoff. “You can’t have two players who hate each other causing disunity, so I’ve separated them. Hammond took 700 first-class wickets bowling medium pace and was a great slip catcher. He scored 167 centuries and in 1928-29 he outscored Bradman in Australia.”
5. Brian Lara (West Indies): “A wonderful stroke player,” says Geoff. “Making the world Test match record score of 375 for West Indies vs England in 1994 would be the supreme achievement for most batsmen, but to do it twice is mind blowing – and that’s what he did when he made 400 not out in 2004. He also scored the highest individual score in first-class cricket – 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham in 1994 – and from only 427 balls. Wow. Every cricketer would be happy to have just one of those records. Excellent judge of length and a huge range of shots.”
6. Imran Khan (Pakistan, captain): “Anyone who can handle the politics, tempestuous nature and talent of a team of Pakistani players has to be outstanding at handling people. A fast bowler who was a great exponent of reverse swing on dry or low slow pitches, he also batted well. Excellent all-rounder, a great leader of men.”
7. Adam Gilchrist (Australia): “Alan Knott was a better wicketkeeper but Gilchrist’s glovework was good enough. For a stumper, his batting was on another planet,” says Geoff. “Changed the role of keepers and a long line of fine keeper-batters have followed trying to emulate him.”
8. Bill O’Reilly (Australia): “Very tall, and a faster-than-normal wrist spinner,” says Geoff. “He didn’t toss it up much but created enormous pressure on batsmen by giving little to hit. Bradman said Bill O’Reilly was the best bowler he ever faced and was better than Barnes because he could bowl every ball that Barnes bowled, plus the googly. Barnes’s reply was, “I never needed it.” Barnes was a bit faster than Bill and swung the ball too, which Bill didn’t do much.”
9. Wasim Akram (Pakistan): “It is handy to have left-arm seam from a different angle,” says Geoff. “A tall man, he generated lots of pace and awkward bounce. Swung the new ball and could reverse swing the old ball devastatingly.”
10. Harold Larwood (England): “I must have Larwood in the opposition,” says Geoff. “Why? If Bradman is allowed to play his best, he can bat his side into a winning position. The only man to have cut Bradman down to half size was Larwood in the 1932-33 series in Australia. Larwood unsettled Bradman and also did some psychological damage to the great player because after that series they didn’t speak. There was too much feeling. It was personal. And regardless of all that, he was very fast and very accurate.”
11. Freddie Trueman (England): “Hardly ever got injured and took 307 Test wickets at 21.57 with a strike rate of 49, which is tremendous,” says Geoff. “Fred was not selected for 29 Tests because the ‘Establishment’ at that time were wary of characters. [England captain] Peter May said at the end of a long tiring day in the field Fred was the one bowler he could call on to come back and do the business.”
12. Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka): “Lovely lad and very likeable but my professional opinion is he threw it with that action. Anyway, I have to accept the ICC cleared it, so with his wickets and match-winning performances he has to be in. Great skill and huge spin either way with the doosra. Wonderful to watch.”
I then decided to have a go at picking an All-Time South Africa Test match XI and this is what I came up with. Please note that I didn’t spend hours on this, researching reports, averages and the like, so it is purely a squad of 12 that pretty much immediately came to mind. No doubt I probably have forgotten a player or two.
Possible All-Time SA Test match squad of 12
1 Barry Richards
2 Graeme Smith (captain)
3 Hashim Amla
4 Graeme Pollock
5 Jacques Kallis
6 AB de Villiers (wicketkeeper)
7 Shaun Pollock
8 Mike Procter
9 Hugh Tayfield
10 Dale Steyn
11 Alan Donald
12 Imran Tahir
* The Test match squads of 12 below are by no means the definitive squads either, as there have been so many outstanding players from our KZN schools. It was just a quick thumb suck. Guaranteed I have forgotten a name for a minute and left someone out.
Possible All-Time KZN Schools squad of 12
1 Barry Richards (DHS)
2 Jackie McGlew (Maritzburg College, captain)
3 Hashim Amla (DHS)
4 Kevin Pietersen (Maritzburg College)
5 Robin Smith (Northlands, now Northwood)
6 Lee Irvine wicketkeeper (DHS)
7 Shaun Pollock (Northlands, now Northwood)
8 Mike Procter (Hilton College)
9 Keshav Maharaj (Northwood
10 Hugh Tayfield (DHS)
11 Lungi Ngidi (Hilton College)
12 Richard Snell (DHS)
And I would love to see them play a Test match against this KZN Schools squad, which is:
1 Chris Smith (Northlands, now Northwood)
2 Trevor Goddard (DHS)
3 Wayne Madsen (Kearsney College)
4 Roy McLean (Hilton College)
5 Dale Benkenstein (Michaelhouse, captain)
6 Jonty Rhodes (Maritzburg College)
7 David Miller (Maritzburg College)
8 Trevor Madsen (Glenwood, wicketkeeper)
9 Richard McGlashan (Beachwood, now Northwood)
10 Trevor Packer (Alexandra)
11 Daryn Dupavillon (Maritzburg College)
12 Derek Crookes (Hilton College)
13 Errol Stewart (Westville)
I bet there are names I have forgotten. It is just a team I came up with. I tried not to include players I have written about in recent years. They have got enough to contend with in these challenging times.
It is amazing how you chance upon a random Facebook feed and find yourself spending a good couple of hours happily lost down Memory Lane.
Thanks Anthony Hall, your post sparked all sorts of happy reminiscences – although I must hasten to add an especially (unfond) uncomfortable afternoon memory too…
See if you recognise these players and the coach/manager etc. If so, please point out who is who amongst this quality group of KZN10 schoolboy cricketers from that early eighties era who as far as I can recall were outstanding as a team at that 1983 Nuffield Week.
I do recall some of the guys almost immediately, although my facts and so on may be more than a little hazy here and there.
I notice the 1983 Maritzburg College and Natal Schools captain, the wicketkeeper/batsman Andrew Brown (front row, third from left); his school teammate, the left-arm seamer and right-hand bat Greg Walsh (back row, third from the right).
And on the far right in the front row, fellow Maritzburg College batsman Richard Delvin, who I think made 2 centuries at the 1983 Nuffield Week but missed out on SA Schools selection – there must have been some seriously in-form batsman at that Nuffield Week.
I think Greg Walsh, who was an outstanding fielder into the bargain, also hit a century at that Nuffield Week.
Not sure who took the bulk of the wickets.
Durban High School’s Robbie May (back row, fourth from the right) was an effective quick bowler so I am not surprised he is in this outstanding team, which I think (as I said) had a superb Nuffield Week.
I think that fifth from the left in the back row is Kearsney College paceman Anthony Hall, who made SA Schools that year as far as I can recall. Ant was seriously quick and uber-aggressive, and had the ability to cut the ball viciously off a reasonably responsive pitch.
I was last at school in 1982 and as I type this I vividly recall facing Ant’s right-arm pace and fire – a charging buffalo had nothing on a suitably riled-up Ant Hall – from one end on Kearsney’s splendid AH Smith Oval while the ultra-talented Natal Schools (and further) flyhalf Cameron Oliver (RIP), who was a left-arm quick capable of weaving red-ball magic when the mood took him, was at full-throttle from the other end.
Just to get bat on ball – at all – on that testing fourth term 1982 Saturday afternoon felt like a triumph in itself.
I think that second from the right in the back row is Michaelhouse’s hard-hitting all-rounder Dave Burger, who later finished his schooling at Maritzburg College.
I think that’s Beachwood’s Craig Small in the front row – while I think Craig Beart of Hilton is there as well, alongside Rich Delvin. And the teacher coach in the front row has to be Hilton’s Ant Lovell.
And Dean van der Walt of DHS is there, it might have been Dean’s second year in the side.
Help me out guys.
When the ticks on a ruffled buffalo are biting in all the wrong places it’s no place to be.
Telegraph chief cricket writer Scyld Berry and colleague Tim Wigmore make some interesting points about the evolution of T20 cricket, the state of the gripping India England series ahead of Saturday’s day-night decider and the contrast in fortunes between two batting styles’ effectiveness on the pitches found in the hot-house of the world game.
Scyld points to how the game in your modern-day top-level T20 match has slowed since the days of the format’s inception (in the 2003 county season) when the 80-minute mark required the last over to be delivered. The 3-hour T20 match was the norm. In the current India England series it is taking 2 hours to get through each innings.
Sussex were the first county to install floodlights but everywhere else in county cricket a T20 match was geared to start after the typical work day had finished and end before the long English summer evenings had seeped into dusk. Of course, in those days there were no interruptions by third umpires taking long minutes to adjudicate just one contentious dismissal.
Scyld points out that in blazing floodlit India there is no rush in the evenings, which present the most amenable time of the day to be outside. And possibly the only folk fretting about how late the match is going to end are parents anxious to get the kids asleep and away from the TV before the strike of the midnight hour.
And the lengthening duration of the T20 innings is plays right into the palm of the TV broadcaster’s hand; the longer the game the more TV ad breaks.
There are few who can put words to better use than Scyld: “Bring on the dew, bring out the towels! Slow the game down even more – and as long as there is a decent climax, does anybody – apart from anxious parents and those with first-edition [news] deadlines – really care?”
England’s plethora of left-handers (4 of the top 7) are being undone by the India attack’s judicious employment of the off-cutter on relatively slow pitches, while the fast-flowing bounty of runs being scored by the agile and wristy, shorter of stature, quick hands-and-feet inventiveness of the home batters (Suryakumar Yadav, man of the match on debut) is trumping the fortunes of the “stand tall and play straight” technocrats like Dawid Malan and KL Rahul.
Yadav, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer added 124 in 72 balls in a middle-overs case study that contributed much to the 8-run win in Ahmedabad and the 2-2 squaring of the series, Jofra Archer’s late frenzy that included breaking his bat notwithstanding.
A record of just 77 series runs off 80 balls at the top of the innings (when quite often just 2 fielders have been allowed out of the ring) is putting Dawid Malan’s England place in doubt as the T20 World Cup looms in India later this year.
Dawid Johannes Malan is the son of Dawid J. Malan, who played four first-class matches for Northerns and WP. Born in England and brought up in the Paarl, matriculating at Boys’ High, Dawid junior made his first-class debut for Boland fresh out of school, followed by a permanent move to England and the launch of what has been a decade-plus career on the county circuit as well as noted success for the national team.
A tall (6-foot) left-hander with an orthodox batting style capable of booming straight drives, Dawid is finding the Indian pitches less rewarding than the pacy, hard tracks that have greater affinity with his technique.
England superstar all-rounder Ben Stokes told Telegraph man-on-tour Wigmore that Saturday’s series decider took on the dimensions of a precursor to a possible T20 World Cup final between the world’s number 1 and 2 sides.
“It is a final, because if we don’t win then we lose the series. The more situations we get put into when we’ve got pressure on us and we keep prevailing that’s going to do us the world of good – especially with a T20 World Cup coming up. These are all great learning experiences.
“I hope that everyone is still asking questions of themselves. I hope that there is more work to do because that’s how you get better as you’re always looking to improve.”
Sources: The Telegraph, AP, PA, Reuters, Getty, Rex