Dec 3, 2008

Sports - Cricket;Warne on Cricketers (G.Read)

Legendary Australian spinner Shane Warne has drawn interesting profiles of the world's leading international cricketers in his just released book.

Sample this: "Inzamam was a huge great bear of a man who looked as though he was batting with a toothpick. The stumps always seemed very small when he was at the crease - that's if you could see any of them behind his frame."

Warne's imagination, however, was followed by a lot of praise for the former Pakistani captain whom he perceived as a genial personality.

"Anybody underestimating him at first sight soon realised that his appearance was really deceptive. He was one of the most identifiable batsmen in the world, but he was comfortable in his big-boned frame.

"He was really a good slip fielder, probably he didn't fancy patrolling the covers for too long. But when he did, he had a rocket arm.

"Away from the game, he comes across as being very relaxed and just as easy-going. He even speaks slowly, but he is good fun to be around and is the sort of guy who can make you laugh," Warnie wrote in 'Shane Warne's Century'.

With his funny bone active, Warne did not even spare his former captains Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh and was brutally honest in penning his views on them.

"There was nothing fancy about Mark Taylor. He had wonderful leadership skills and excellent communication, but his main weakness was his terrible dress sense - the shirts he used to wear were horrendous, although Steve Waugh's were worse."

Merv Huges was another Aussie who could not escape Warne's minute observations.

"The image I will take most from the 1993 Ashes is not Mike Gatting's puzzled face at the Old Trafford, but of Huges sitting in the dressing room at the Oval after the last Test, staring out like a zombie and covered in ice packs to keep down the swelling after his last input in the memorable series...

"He had ice on both knees and on his shoulders, groin and back... If we had been called out to take a couple of more wickets, Huges would have been the first through the door of the dressing-room. For (captain) Allan Border, he was a dream."

However, a high regard was in store for David Boon.

"If you were building a perfect model of the bloke you would want to wear our Baggy Green Cap, he would bear pretty strong resemblance to David Boon: tough, uncompromising, defiant and proud."

Warne was tickled to know that burly former Sri Lanka skipper Arjuna Ranatunga idolised Allan Border.

"It was funny to see him puffing and panting after a chase. He once said that he based his game and attitude on Allan Border. Border would be horrified to know that," he said.

Warne also felt that Rahul Dravid could have even been called "The fortress" instead of 'The Wall'.

"Indian people love to give their cricket heroes a nickname. As these things go, Rahul Dravid being known as 'The Wall' is pretty much spot on. 'The fortress' could also describe Rahul. Because once, Dravid was set, you needed the bowling equivalent of a dozen cannon firing all at once to blast him down," he wrote.

Former West Indian captain Brian Lara, according to Warne, was a "mood" player but wasn't ever at the crease just to hang around.

"(Sachin) Tendulkar was consistent but Lara was a 'mood' player. Whether you love him or hate him, Lara was a bloke who captured your attention straight away. He was an awesome player to watch when on song, with his high backlift and his all-around presence at the crease. He had a lovely strut and a swagger; he also had a lot of natural flair.

"Without being a big or bulky guy, he imposed himself on bowlers. He had massive presence; I guess that Viv Richards must have had that same demeanour at the crease.

"You just knew you were in the company of somebody who was better than the rest, who wasn't going to just hang around; he wanted to stamp his authority, straight away."

Another West Indian Chris Gayle, Warne felt, was not as "laid-back" or "happy-go-lucky" as he appeared to be.

"Many of the West Indians like to chew gum, look out from behind their shades with their ear phones in and move with the rhythm of their music - sometimes I wonder whether there actually is any sound coming from their iPods. But behind Gayle's appearance lies a guy who is deadly serious about his cricket".

About his ex-teammate Glenn McGrath, Warne said his simplicity and perfect basic skills was his virtue.

"Nobody underlines the old saying that cricket is a simple game more than my old buddy Glenn McGrath," he wrote.

"All of the top players have an X-factor about them and the ability to change the gear. In McGrath's case, you might look at the footage and struggle to find that precious, extra something to explain his fantastic record. MORE

"Off the field he could be a pest. There is no other word for him... He likes practical jokes ... As our long-term number 11, he had plenty of time to get up to his tricks in the dressing room," Warne said summing up his feelings as "you are the definition of a champion!"

Warne opted not to go into the debate of legality of Muttiah Muralitharan's action and said the spin bowler must be admired for his achievements.

"Time spent complaining is the time and energy wasted, especially in the dressing room. It is better to watch him and admire the way he bowls and ponder the way he does it and come up with a way of trying to counter his skills."

Warne, however, observed that the highest wicket-taker bowler had "chinks in his armour" too.

"For such a good bowler, he tends to be very, very defensive".

His take on Jonty Rhodes: "This rubber-man with the Colgate-white smile showed kids that fielding wasn't just something to do in the gap between getting a bat and a bowl. He made it cool to dive around and have some fun."

He described left-arm England spinner Monty Panesar as "jewel of the game today" while terming Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene as "baby-faced assassin" with a "soft, squeaky voice".

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