Kolkata: Shane Warne, the ultimate showman of cricket and IPL’s first-ever winning captain, will be looming large at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Saturday when his team Rajasthan Royals face off Mumbai Indians. Royals, in collaboration with Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the official broadcasters, will be celebrating the life and times of the icon who shocked the world by passing away at 52 years in early March.
The Royals have invited Jason, Warne’s younger brother and soulmate, to be the special guest on the occasion and they have also reached out to the ‘Class of 2008’ - a group on whom the leg spinner had left an indelible impression as a captain and mentor. The choice of the venue bears significance as it was in Navi Mumbai where the unfancied Royals beat Chennai Super Kings by a narrow margin to emerge as the first champions of the path-breaking league.
‘‘We will be retiring the No.23 jersey of Warne in respect of his memory while Sanju Samson & Co will be sporting special initials “SW23” on the leading collar of their official playing kits. Our management had reached out to his family and Jason Warne has agreed to be here,’’ said Ranjit Barthakur, Chairman of the Royals.
Shane loved India and felt that between England, Australia and India, this was the real cricketing nation. Even during the last two editions of the IPL in the UAE, he played an extremely important role for us as a brand ambassador and a hands-on mentor. If we don’t honour his legacy, then we will be failing in our duties
Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive phone interview from Mumbai, Barthakur said: ‘‘The first achiever to do something always remains in the memory and hence, Warne will always enjoy a pride of place in the history of IPL. He had been a great supporter of us and Manoj Badale, our lead owner, had a special relationship with him and together they shared lot of plans of democratising the game.
‘‘Shane loved India and felt that between England, Australia and India, this was the real cricketing nation. Even during the last two editions of the IPL in the UAE, he played an extremely important role for us as a brand ambassador and a hands-on mentor. If we don’t honour his legacy, then we will be failing in our duties,’’ the official felt.
Royals, who had pursued a grassroots talent-hunt programme, followed it up through the ups and downs of their fortunes in the IPL and according to Barthakur, the idea had Warne’s strong approval. ‘‘Yes, he had ingrained in us the idea of democratisation of cricket where we can focus on raising talent from the lower strata of the society. If we had managed to support Yashasvi Jaiswal in the past, Kuldeep Sen from Indore has been a revelation among the upcoming fast bowlers this season,’’ he said.
Incidentally, Royals had been benefitting from a good auction and has had an impressive campaign this year. Asked to comment on the team’s campaign, a guarded Barthakur said: ‘‘We are trying our best this season to buck the trend and are humbly, but silently optimistic with the way things are going. If we do well this year, it will be certainly our tribute to Warne.’’
Emotions will be on an overdrive at the DY Patil Stadium on Saturday - where among other dedicated tributes, a special area has also been turned into a Shane Warne Tribute Gallery, which all the ticket-holding fans as well as the students of the DY Patil University will be able to visit and experience.
‘‘We look forward to having everyone’s support in making this a very special occasion for everyone associated with Warne - be it from close quarters or from a distance. It’s just a beginning as we also have plans to develop an ecosystem around the principles of Warne and may announce something,’’ Barthakur added.