SHANE Warne keeps of­fer­ing to help Cricket Aus­tralia fix the na­tional team and Cricket Aus­tralia keeps spurn­ing his ad­vances. Warne took wick­ets and man­aged dis­trac­tions. He knew how to sledge and main­tain a busy so­cial life, even if he con­fused the two at times. In short, Warne em­bod­ied the pin­na­cle of Aus­tralian cricket: slightly bogan, some­times tubby but with a fe­ro­cious will to win. And he did it with­out bitch­ing about play­ing too much, a “high per­for­mance man­ager” or “elite hon­esty”.

Warne wants to sec­ond for­mer play­ers as con­sul­tants to the team. It has to be fun, he says of the game. He is on to some­thing. The greats should share their sto­ries with the cur­rent play­ers, who ap­pear to spend most of their lives an­swer­ing ques­tions about how much sleep they’ve had and how they feel out of 10.

Ian Chap­pell: Straight, ar­tic­u­late and thought­ful. Never wor­ried too much about cur­fews or how rested any­one felt. “I found I slept ex­tremely well on half a dozen beers … in fact it acted as a per­fectly good sleep­ing pill,” Chap­pell wrote in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy. Doug Wal­ters: This jour­nal­ist once in­ter­viewed Wal­ters; af­ter­wards, I couldn’t re­call the con­ver­sa­tion, read my notes or walk. He was great com­pany, I think, a throw­back to gold chains and fugs of smoke. He prob­a­bly told the tale about his bench­mark for beer drink­ing in 1977 on a flight to Syd­ney from Lon­don, an Ashes trip. He sur­prised him­self — and drink­ing com­peti­tor Rod Marsh — by down­ing 44 beers and light­ing cig­a­rettes the wrong way around. Wal­ters said pun­ters asked him more about the 44 than the Test 100 he scored in a ses­sion in Perth.

Rod Marsh: Aus­tralian wick­et­keeper whose bold ef­forts on that flight against Wal­ters went largely un­recog­nised. His ex­am­ple in bet­ter­ing Wal­ters’ mark on the same jour­ney, six years later for the 1983 World Cup, is a touch­stone in de­ter­mi­na­tion. He had fin­ished his 43rd beer as the plane banked to land in Lon­don. “I can’t make it,” fast bowler Den­nis Lillee re­ported Marsh as say­ing in a sub­se­quent book. “Bull­shit,” Lillee en­cour­aged. “The chal­lenge had by now as­sumed the as­sumed the sig­nif­i­cance of win­ning an Ashes se­ries … we tilted Rod­ney’s head back and lit­er­ally force-fed him”. Lillee, in a pow­er­ful show of team unity, said he loaded Marsh on to a lug­gage trol­ley to get him through Cus­toms.

David Boon: Like Marsh, does not talk about beers on planes. Doesn’t like talk­ing at all, as far as we can tell, which means much of his wis­dom has been de­ci­phered from a VB Boonie fig­urine, a beer pro­mo­tion give­away that spoke at ran­dom mo­ments and ter­rorised pets. Why not give ev­ery player a Boonie doll re­count­ing the 1989 Ashes flight to Lon­don, when Boonie guz­zled 52 (or 53) beers and walked from the plane, al­beit, in the words of Steve Waugh, “Week­end At Bernie’s style”? The pun­ish­ing warmup seemed to work. Aus­tralia re­claimed the Ashes and Boon av­er­aged 55 for the tour.

Merv Hughes: The work­horse who in­spired spec­ta­tors to imi­tate his out­field warm-ups. He could tell to­day’s hot­house flower play­ers about pig-outs when his weight would bal­loon, about putting his tongue in his cap­tain’s ear, about be­ing sledged as “Sumo” and cash­ing in with T-shirts in­stead of com­plain­ing about on-field nas­ti­ness and about fin­ish­ing a drink­ing ses­sion at 11pm and get­ting a pizza on the way home — be­fore day two of a 1993 Ashes Test in a se­ries in which he took 31 wick­ets. Hughes could tell the play­ers about never com­plain­ing about hav­ing to bowl too much — on a wonky knee. And of play­ing a sim­ple game best by, to bor­row from Warne, be­ing free to be who he was.

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