Oh what a dreadful Shane: Throwing the book at Warne
An awkwardly gleaming example of what plastic surgery, botox, hair implants, tooth-whitening, can do
Shane Warne has a face for radio. At least, he does on the dust jacket of his new autobiography, where he appears crags, wrinkles, sunspots and all, and looking older than his 49 years.
That’s not uncommon for those who have made their money under a blazing sun. But the photograph is all the more striking because Warne has become, in his retirement, an awkwardly gleaming example of what plastic surgery, botox, hair implants, tooth-whitening and the like can do for middle-aged men.
He has steadfastly denied having stooped to such levels of vanity. We will take that from whence it comes: someone who was sent home in disgrace from the 2003 World Cup for failing a drug test after ingesting a banned substance that lurked in a slimming agent. Fatboy not so slim, né?
Anyway. There Warne and his face for radio were on Jacaranda FM on Tuesday morning selling books. Actually, only his voice – he was on the phone. “It’s really important, if you’re going to do something like this, to be completely honest; upfront,” he said. “I’ve never pretended to be something I’m not.”
Hence the crags, wrinkles and sunspots …
“There’s lots in the book that has never been in a public place.”
And a good thing, too, considering we are dealing with someone who has appeared in the thoroughly public place of the front page of the News of the World wearing little more than a pair of Playboy-branded pants in photographs taken behind closed doors that also feature a comically large inflatable plastic penis and two giddily giggling women, both less dressed than Warne.
The book is pocked with, Warne said, “pitfalls, failures and mistakes” along with tales of the triumphs that earned him 708 wickets in 145 Tests.
People still, he said, tell him: “We miss you in the game, we love you. You’re a character.”
Among these adorers are South Africans, one of whom apparently “calls himself the chairman of the Shane Warne fan club”.
In fact, it would not be stretching the point to say some of Warne’s best friends are Saffers. And one of them not.
“I’m not friends with Daryll Cullinan, but I am great friends with Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis and Jonty [Rhodes] and ‘Bouch’ [Mark Boucher] … all the guys and Graeme Smith. We hang out all the time.”
There are a couple of things off kilter with all that.
Most obviously, however well Warne gets on with Smith does he really need to say so twice in the same sentence?
And how sad can the man be to have to hark back, with a juvenile snigger, to his one-sided battles with Cullinan, who could probably match him for raw cricketing genius but always seemed to come second to him on the field?
Living in the past much, Shane? And dining out on alternative facts, no less.
Warne dismissed Cullinan 12 times in the 29 Tests and one-day internationals they played against each other, and more often than not he made the South African look like a poor facsimile of the fine batsman he was.
Thing is, you don’t hear Warne taunting Nasser Hussain despite that fact that he took the Englishman’s wicket more times in fewer matches compared to his record against Cullinan.
Perhaps that’s because Warne knows better than to undermine a heavyweight in his current profession of television punditry – a deeply weird world that Australian writer Geoff Lemon skewered brilliantly in The Guardian in February 2015: “It’s all about being the matiest mates who ever mated.” Just then, “Biff” himself popped up in a recorded message.
“Hey SK,” Smith said with a smile in his voice. “Great to hear you back on South African radio, buddy. It’s great that you’ve managed to put out such a great spin on your life.”
Whether he was trying to be punny wasn’t apparent, but he left no room for doubt that he considered Warne “one of the great characters and people of our game”.
“I was around at times when you were working on the book,” Smith said, “and I could see the time and effort that you put in. I look forward to reading one myself. See you in Aus shortly.”
Watcha think of that then, Warnie baby? “Nah, that’s lovely, isn’t it,” Warne said, emotion no doubt welling up where his tear ducts once were.
You can’t fault Warne for knowing what will make people buy his book: “My father; what he had to do to put milk and bread on the table. My journey; the struggles at times, also the loneliness. I saw a sports psychologist for a while, which I’ve never really put out there. The first question he asked me in our sessions was: ‘Mr and Mrs Jones and Mr and Mrs Smith are on a flight, and Shane Warne. And the plane crashed. Write your own obituary’. That was quite confronting, and that was the tone of the sessions.
“I’ve had two relationships: I was married once and engaged once. I let my children down over the journey. But in a funny sort of a way that’s led to some great communication with my kids. They’re my No 1 priority.”
Hold that thought, Shane. Heeeeeere’s AB …
“Shane Warne, in my opinion, is the best bowler to ever play cricket,” AB de Villiers said in another on-air tribute.
“Not only is he the greatest bowler, he’s most probably the greatest mind in cricket as well. As a 21, 22-year-old it was certainly very intimidating walking out to bat against him.
“Shane’s mind is so strong he’s even made people believe he’s a 10 or an 11 handicap. Please do not believe that: he’s a thief on the golf course.”
A scratching sound comes out of the speakers. Radio static? The curdling of wrinkles around the mouth? The sound of a skin finally got under? All or none of the above?
“I’m not a thief – I’m [playing] off nine, thank you.”