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.