Dubai: Talk about being a show-stopper in cricket, and it will still have to be Shane Warne. Looking as fit as ever at 51 with the pink Rajasthan Royals jersey on, the leg spin legend still looked capable of having a go at the rival batsmen when he stepped into the Gulf News office on Wednesday morning.
A brand ambassador and mentor of the ‘Halla Bol’ Army, whom Warne had captained to their only IPL title in the first edition in 2008, the Australian felt they are capable of roaring back in the second half of IPL 2020. ‘‘The batting has been a cause of worry, but I would have been more concerned if it had been closer to the finals. Once the big four of Stokes, Smith, Buttler and Samson find some consistency and Archer is in full rhythm, the team should be peaking just in time,’’ the owner of 708 Test wickets said in an exclusive chat in the newsroom.
“Let’s look at the team. Jos Buttler would open for any World XI now. Ben Stokes is the world’s best allrounder and Jofra Archer would be the opening bowler. So we have four world-class players along with Steve Smith,’’he said.
A couple of good wins from here onwards and we could be in the mix, he said, not willing to take their struggles in the powerplay too seriously. “The tactics in the powerplay vary according to teams and situations. Sometimes, the idea is not to lose too many wickets in the first six overs as if we try to go too hard against a (Kagiso) Rabada or (Jasprit) Bumrah, you can end up losing a lot of wickets,’’ he said.
Despite the Royals being such a star-studded team, if there is one cricketer who had been the biggest talking point so far - it had been Rahul Tewatia after his two Houdini acts with the bat. Agreeing wholeheartedly, Warne said: ‘‘‘Mr Wowtia,’ that’s what we are calling him these days. He always had the skills with the bat and had been a brilliant fielder. We have been working with his leg spin and it’s coming out nicely, he bowled quite a few important overs. Yes, he has been a superstar for us.’’
The man who is credited with bowling the ‘ball of the century’ to dismiss Mike Gatting in the 1993 Ashes series, was elated at the revival of the art of leg-spin around the world - even in the T20 format. ‘‘When T20 started, people thought it’s end of spin. Now out of top 10 T20 bowlers, nine would be spinners.
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‘‘The stock of leg spinners is very high at the moment with the likes of Rashid Khan, Yasir Shah and Adam Zampa. It’s in good hands at the moment,’’ said Warne.
Stepping out of the bubble at the team hotel in Dubai ever since his arrival, Warne complimented the players for making tremendous sacrifices to make a tournament like the IPL get underway outside India. ‘‘The players had to make sacrifices by staying away from their families by staying in the bubble. Someone like Jos Buttler had been in a bubble for five months, I had been living in a bubble since February. The Indian and Australian players leave directly from here to visit Down Under where they are scheduled to play three T20s, three ODIs and four Tests which finish only in the end of January,’’ he said.
‘‘We are missing the crowd this time as the IPL feeds a lot off it. It’s a huge event, figures say the first game had over 200 million TV audience..now that’s more than Super Bowl which has 100 million. The quality of cricket so far had been simply fantastic,’’ he signed off.