A A real-life real-life soap opera
Shane Warne’s achievements on the field will take some beating, as will his sometimes questionable behaviour both professionally and personally. DOUG CONWAY reports
FEWcricketers will ever come within cooee of Shane Warne’s achievements on the field, but can Warne now top his own reputation as a human headline off it?
By appearing to raise the possibility of a rapprochement with his divorced wife Simone, Warne gave every indication he will continue to star in his own real-life soap opera.
‘‘Who knows what the future holds there?’’ the world’s most successful bowler asked rhetorically as he announced his retirement from Test and domestic Australian cricket.
‘‘We still live together, even though we’re divorced. So that’s sort of a pretty interesting set-up. ‘‘She’s been sort of my rock, I suppose. ‘‘She’s been probably my best friend for a long period of time. We’re still friends now.’’
The two, who divorced earlier this year after a string of Warne sex scandals, attended last month’s Melbourne Cup together.
They will spend Christmas together with their three children at their Melbourne home, according to women’s magazine reports.
Warne also plans to spend much more time with his children now that the bulk of his cricket commitments are over.
One fly in the ointment could be Warne’s decision to honour the final two years of a three-year contract with English county side Hampshire, where he honed the text messaging skills that landed him in so much hot water.
His retirement sentiments, however, held glimpses of a maturity so glaringly absent during a career which produced a steady stream of salacious and scandalous stories.
They underlined a swimming official’s perceptive observation on Olympian Ian Thorpe’s recent retirement — that Warne and Thorpe are the only two people in Australia who can appear on the front page, the back page and the social pages of newspapers on the same day.
Warne has taken more Test wickets than anyone in history — his 700th looms in Melbourne’s Boxing Day Test — but has had even more women than wickets, according to Paul Barry’s unauthorised biography, which estimated Warne’s female scalps at over 1000. If that is to be believed, Warne may have taken his mentor Terry Jenner too literally when he said the champion spinner had ‘a need to be loved by everybody’.
The 37-year-old attracted rock star treatment which included some of the staples of the genre — sex, drugs and gambling.
Warne was the blond-haired, diamondstudded face of modern cricket, the most flamboyant and controversial star in a country that idolises its sporting champions. He had flashy cars, fancy homes, his own company (23 Red Pty Ltd, after his favourite roulette number) and a queue of sponsors which made him a millionaire
many times over.
‘‘Sometimes you just don’t believe it’s all happening,’’ Warne said once of his whirlwind life.
‘‘Everything is going full steam ahead in fast forward.’’
But his high-velocity career was peppered by questionable behaviour and errors of judgment.
He accepted money from an Indian bookmaker in 1994, as did team-mate Mark Waugh, for providing pitch and weather information, pleading stupidity and naivety when the incident came to light four years later.
Many considered he got off lightly when fined $8000 — just $3000 more than he took.
He admitted ‘talking dirty’ in a phone call to a British nurse he met in a nightclub, and was subsequently stripped of the Australian vice-captaincy.
After being axed from the Australian Test side in 1999, he ‘had a smoke one night when I was pissed’ and was soon back on the cigarettes.
There was no crime in that, but the danger was to his reputation as well as his health — he was still under contract after accepting $200,000 from an anti-smoking company to kick the habit.
A year later Warne was reprimanded for grabbing a New Zealand teenager who had snapped a photo of him smoking.
He was banned for 12 months in 2003 for taking outlawed diuretic tablets, which he said his mum had given him to look slimmer on TV.
But diuretics can also be used to mask steroid use, and World Anti-Doping Agency chairman Dick Pound remarked: ‘‘You cannot have an IQ of more than room temperature, and be unaware of this as an international athlete.’’
The judging triumvirate hearing his case found he had not been ‘entirely truthful’ and had given ‘vague, inconsistent and unsatisfactory’ evidence.
Warne’s glittering achievements on-field will, for some, be tarnished by other images: giving a one-fingered salute from the players’ balcony at Lord’s, storming out of a news conference after a journalist made a crack about his weight, and audibly calling batsmen foul names.
Warne expects plenty more media attention on his personal life, even as an excricketer.
‘‘It’s nice to have that attention,’’ he said this week, ‘‘but hopefully I won’t have the same scrutiny, the same intensity, the same judgmental, moralistic stuff.’’
Shane Warne fires off a delivery at the MCG
Shane Warne swigs champagne from the bottle on the Old Trafford balcony during celebrations of Australia’s win over England in the 1997 Ashes series Third Test
Shane Warne and his divorced
Saturday, December 23, 2006