Shane Warne to join Royals by late March

The team mentor will be available only for the final duration of the club’s camp ahead of the IPL.

Shane Warne may also be keen on a commentary stint in the IPL.   -  Getty Images

Rajasthan Royals, returning to the Indian Premier League (IPL) after a two-year suspension, pulled off a coup when it announced the appointment of its former skipper Shane Warne as the team's mentor.

The Australian spin great, who guided the Royals to its only Indian Premier League (IPL) title in 2008, will work alongside cricket director, Zubin Bharucha, and captain, Steve Smith. Warne will also spend time with the spinners, helping them hone their skills.

The Australian is expected to join the side by the end of March or early April and will be available only for the final duration of the camp. Like other franchises, Royals will also start its camp by mid-March at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur.

The franchise has already started the assessment process of the players. Royals physio John Gloster attended a few games of the Vijay Hazare Trophy last week to get an idea about the fitness levels of the franchise’s Indian recruits.

Role-period ‘undecided’

Royals’ officials remain tight-lipped on the issue. But Sportstar understands that Warne may only serve his role with the team for the first half of the tourney. It would depend on whether Warne bags a commentary role, something he is believed to be keen on. “It is still undecided. The franchise definitely wants him for the entire tournament, and even if he goes away, it will be for some other commitments,” a source, who is in the know of things, confirmed to Sportstar.

The source, however, was quick to point out that the franchise will try to have Warne as the mentor for the entire season. “Warne knows the Royals outfit inside out and his presence will certainly help the players and the team to stay motivated,” the source added.

‘Free hand to the players’

Warne, as Royals’ captain for four seasons — from 2008 to 2011 — built a friendly atmosphere in the dressing room. The Aussie backed youngsters like Swapnil Asnodkar and Ravindra Jadeja to emerge as bright talents in the first edition of the IPL. Some of the players who have been with the Royals during Warne’s time admit that the Aussie created a positive dressing room atmosphere that benefitted the players. “He would give a free-hand to the players and ask them to plan according to situation. That definitely boosted the team’s confidence,” a former Royals player, who is now with a different franchise, said.

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Warne had even started the concept of ‘Pinky—the doll’, where a player had to keep a pink doll with him as a punishment for breaking a team rule or walking late to the team bus or making a mistake.