Quite hilarious

Shane Warne managed to settle numerous scores in the construction of his list and the only surprise was his mother was not ranked a few places ahead of his former captain, writes Peter Roebuck.

Frankly it’s hard to know which is more hilarious, Shane Warne’s list of his fifty best cricketers or the frivolities in South Africa.

Both are splendidly ludicrous and both have provoked much frothing. But these are fireworks, not raging infernos.

Warne managed to settle numerous scores in the construction of his list and the only surprise was his mother was not ranked a few places ahead of his former captain. Everyone knew that Warne was bound to put the boot into Steve Waugh but few anticipated that the old rascal could place him so far down (26th). The disregard told a tale of crushed ambition.

Warne has never accepted that he undid himself. And Steve was a much better batsman than his more stylish twin brother.

Most of the leg-spinner’s pals made the list including dear old “Boof” Lehmann, whose elevated status owed more to a willingness to share a cigarette and a beer than anything accomplished in the international arena.

Warne and Lehmann were fellow travellers. Both bulged in the wrong places and rebelled against confinement. Nor could any reasonable person prefer Jamie Siddons to Kumara Sangakkara and various Indians and Pakistanis.

Warne gets serious only at the top of his list. The respect shown to Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Curtly Ambrose and Glenn McGrath was genuine.

Arguably McGrath belonged in front of the Antiguan because he served more consistently. Warne’s recognition of Tendulkar surprised only Indians who expect their champion to be perfect yet readily forgive others their frailties. Lara’s surges were incomparable but infrequent and otherwise he was a mixed blessing.

At any rate the retired tweaker has once more grabbed a headline. Men like him are not inclined towards the quiet life. Risk is their rice, provocation their dahl.

As far as the T20 is concerned, it is going to be a hoot. No-one in their right mind will take it seriously. Anything less suited to solemnity than skilled cricketers belting a ball about for 20 overs it is hard to imagine.

It is as far from Test cricket as were the antics of Ken Dodd from the grave pronunciations of Sir Laurence Olivier. Mr Dodd was a Liverpudlian comedian with erupting hair and a feather-duster. When his thoughts turned to song he was generally accompanied by The Diddymen. Sir Laurence was otherwise inclined.

Doubtless the best team will prevail. A five-over match could be arranged and still the strongest would find a way to win. What will it mean? Cricket will have three champion sides. It does not really matter. Boxing creates confusion by having lots of champions at the same weight. Cricket will have one leading side in each section. And everyone knows that it is the heavyweight division that really counts.

(This piece was written before the start of the World Twenty20)