Jan 29, 2009

Sport - Tendulkar key to India's number 1 dream: Warne

NEW DELHI: Legendary Australian spinner Shane Warne is surely impressed by Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led team's surge in international cricket but
believes India could realise their number one dream only if Sachin Tendulkar keeps himself fit.

Warne also refused to believe that it was the best-ever Indian team so far despite its recent victories against Australia and England.

"I think the best Indian team that I played against was my first one way back in 1991. But this current team is a bit tougher... and I think they can challenge for the number one title in the world, only if Sachin remains fit," he said in reply to an e-mailed questionnaire.

Asked what set Tendulkar apart from all other cricketers of his era, Warne said he had perfect judgement of a bowler.

"Sachin is just a class above everybody else because of the way he judges the line length of a bowler and the way he conducts himself on the pitch," he pointed out.

Warne, however, avoided commenting on how long the Indian batting maestro should go on to play cricket.

The former leg-spin wizard defended Australia's loss to India in the sub-continent, saying Ricky Ponting's men were not on decline but other team's were catching up with them.

"I think they're playing excellent cricket, other sides are just catching up," Warne said.

"I think Australia is going through a change in period and India is always hard to beat in India... I thought it was a wonderful series and India just outplayed Australia and were a better team, there is no disgrace in that.

"Australia were in a position to win 3-nil against South Africa recently, but lost the series. But there are signs early in 2009 that Australia will be a very strong team," he added.

Recalling the inaugural season of the Indian Premier League, which he won captaining and coaching an underdog Rajasthan Royals team, Warne said it was a memorable experience.

"My experience was full of wonderful memories; I thoroughly enjoyed the team spirit that we created amongst our group. It was something I will always remember."

Warne justified his comments that Rajasthan Royals got him in cheap, saying it was indeed a lot less price paid by the franchise owner considering he led the team to title win.

"In the context of everything to have the captain and the coach as one person and looking back in hindsight, I'm sure Emerging Media would be very happy with the price they paid for me considering we won the whole competition. If I went on the market now I'm sure I'd get a lot more," he said, adding, "I'm very happy to be in Rajasthan Royal."

But Warne said he remained a die-hard Test fan and enjoyed the format the most and did not feel that Twenty20 was a threat to its future.

"No, I think Test cricket is always the number 1 version of the game, because that is the true test of a cricketer. T20 is also a great format of the game and will ultimately help Test cricket by the way the game is played."

Warne believed fitness was key to success of his team. "Fitness is a very important aspect of the game; you have to be fit for your role, whatever your role in the team is," he said.

Asked about his plans to make the team ready for IPL season 2, Warne said, "We'll have an open, honest and frank conversation about how we will go about winning in April."

He, however, refused to divulge the details, saying, "We cannot win it in January."

Warne also did not seem much interested in roping in any additional players to the Rajasthan Royals squad in the upcoming auction in Goa.

"I'm very happy with our squad, we'll only add players if they can make a difference," he said.

Asked who was his favourite batsman to bowl at in international cricket, Warne replied, "Darryl Cullinan (of South Africa). I would like to bowl to him for a living."

On recent terror attacks in Mumbai, Warne felt it did not affect the game but wished it had never happened.

"Obviously there is a bit of a concern when something like that happens and - I really felt for the people of India, it was horrific and something I wish never happened. All we can do is rely on the information given to us by security...

"No, I don't (think it was harming the game), but obviously any terror attack is something we all wish would never happen and that would stop," he added.

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