Come in spinner:
Cricket legend Shane Warne will put his own spin on the sport as part of Fox Cricket’s all-star line-up, writes HOLLY BYRNES
Shane Warne will put his own spin on sport as part of Foxtel Cricket’s new line-up
READ the racier chapters of Shane Warne’s candid new memoir No Spin and it’s easy to see the Australian cricketing legend as just another Peter Pan playboy.
Hear him rev the engine of his sleek, black, factory-fresh Mercedes GLE 63 coupe, or “The Beast” as he calls it, and this is one happy man-child, enjoying his latest toy.
But get the leg spinner talking about the opportunity to mentor a new generation of commentators signed to the 24-hour sports channel Fox Cricket and there’s a maturity and wisdom that surprises.
It probably shouldn’t given his professional scorecard which includes 23 years as an elite player for Australia; as well as a media career that spans a quarter century – beginning back in 1993 on Nine and continues today with roles in the UK (on Sky), India (for Star TV) and South Africa.
The fight for his signature here – between Fox Sports, Seven and other non-rights networks – reflects the respect he’s earned as a talented commentator and engaging, if polarising, TV personality.
But it was the opportunity of a “clean slate” at Fox Cricket, which has energised the 49-year-old.
“In 1978, when World Series Cricket started [on Nine], they revolutionised sports broadcasting. Extra cameras, stump mics, coloured clothing, under lights. Bill Lawrie would shout, ‘Got him, yes!’ The excitement they brought to it,” he says. “But I think now, the opportunity at Fox Sports, it’s a clean slate, a blank canvas, so it can be anything we want it to be.”
The commentary team reflects the changed landscape of the sport: a mix of familiar faces and former players from both the men’s and women’s game – including Adam Gilchrist, Ellyse Perry and former England captain Michael Vaughan and Isa Guha.
With rights to all forms of the game, including tests, Big Bash League and one-day internationals, Warne says the skills needed across the 24-hour channel will be served up by “a great group of people … the public will love.”
“I’m excited by the team we’ve pulled together but I’m also really interested and want to help all the people who haven’t really done too much Test match commentary, because saying nothing is sometimes really good,” he says.
Such restraint will be music to the ears of viewers who complain about the constant chirping from some commentators – the TV equivalent of summer cicadas.
It was advice from the late Kerry Packer that put Warne on the right path when it came to what he should bring to Nine’s cricket coverage.
“He said to me, ‘Listen son, all of us wish we could be out in the middle, playing cricket but we can’t, so tell me what it’s like out there’,” Warne says.
The famously astute media mogul told Warne: “Don’t tell me what I can see … I’m not stupid … tell me why it’s happening.”
Fox Sports head of television Steve Crawley believes it’s Warne’s talent for distilling the game’s complicated strategies and nuances of play in simple terms that makes him the best in the business.
“The thing that I love about Shane’s commentary is he can teach me more about cricket in a half hour’s stint with the microphone than anyone else,” Crawley says.
“Every time he’s on, I learn more about the game. You think you know a lot about cricket until you hear people like him put it in the simplistic form.”
On Warne’s leadership qualities, Crawley adds: “It’s a shame that he wasn’t the captain of Australia, because I think he would have been great but, you know, he had other priorities”.
That’s not to say the two haven’t conspired to keep Warne’s larrikin spirit alive – tasking him with voicing a new version of Daddles the duck (the cartoonish character which appears on screen and walks a batsman back to the pavilion without score).
Warne’s insights will be showcased in what previously would have been ad breaks on commercial TV coverage.
“There’s 90 seconds to two minutes where we’ve got the freedom to do anything we want between overs,” Warne says.
Using interactive graphics, Warne and others will “debrief” the play – from breaking down a bowler’s tactics, to explaining techniques that seem simple enough, like catching a ball.
“The insight we can bring to people, the expansion we can have at the end of overs, or during play … our experience and knowledge, there’s just so much we can do,” he says.
Outside of match coverage, Warne will feature in new programs such as Come In
Spinner – alongside Kerry O’Keefe and Mark Howard.
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