Warne's candid admissions

Published : Sep 08, 2001 00:00 IST

IT is purely a love-hate relationship. Tormented once, as Shane Warne says, by Master Batsman Sachin Tendulkar in nightmares, the legendary leg-spinner has finally found words to express his admiration for the batsman.

A candid and insightful autobiography by Warne, which hit the stands in Australia, describes how he was "Tendul-corized" and hails the Indian as "number one" in the game.

Amongst descriptions of the many memorable matches played against almost all cricketing nations across the globe, Warne relates the legendary on-field battles with Tendulkar as also Brian Lara.

"Much has been made of my personal contest with Tendulkar," he writes. "Some people have said that my duel with Tendulkar in India in 1997-98 was the most compelling Test cricket they have ever seen, but there is no doubt he enjoyed the better of the exchanges.

"He has played me better than anybody. Most Indian batsmen pick the length very quickly, even when it is flighted above the eyeline, but Tendulkar moved into position even earlier than the likes of Mohammad Azharuddin and Rahul Dravid."

The eulogy continues.

"His footwork is immaculate. He would either go right forward or all the way back and he has the confidence to go for his strokes. I suppose I would be confident too if I batted as well as Tendulkar."

The candid admissions seem to flow right from his heart as he says, "Although my statistics in that series don't make happy reading, I am still prepared to say it was a pleasure to bowl to him."

Warne even goes on to write: "Obviously, I never bowled to the Don, but if he was consistently superior to Tendulkar then I am glad he was an Australian.

On the loss in the Coca-Cola Cup final in Sharjah, Warne says, "we were once again Tendul-corized!"

He talks of one series where while he was recuperating in Australia, Sachin was practising intensively for the series ahead by deliberately scuffing up an area outside leg stump in the nets to face the Aussie wrist spinners.

"I suppose I should take it as a compliment that he felt he needed to do that before he took Australia and me on. I have nothing but admiration for the guy and as the series progressed he showed why he is the number one."

The other Indian batsman who impressed Warne during the series was the wily opener Navjot Singh Sidhu.

"One batsman I never felt received the credit he deserve during the series was Navjot Sidhu," he writes.

Amongst the spinners during the 1990s, who gave Warne most pleasure were Anil Kumble and Mushtaq Ahmed. Warne writes, "If he was not a hero in India already then Kumble set himself up for life when he took all 10 Pakistan wickets in an innings in Delhi in February 1999."

Kumble was always like an old buddy for Warne. "We would chat about our methods. It is no different from a couple of used-car salesmen bumping into each other. They will pass on a few tricks about deceiving customers while we talk about deceiving batsmen.

"Kumble's strengths are his longevity and consistency... He is a thorough gentleman off the field but extremely competitive on the field."

Warne talks at length about the match-fixing controversy while pleading his innocence.

"I have never attempted to fix a game or any part of a game in my life. I never would and never will. Nor have I knowingly received money from a bookmaker.

"As far as the man I knew only as John is concerned, I was stupid and naive to accept money. It didn't dawn on me that he might be involved with trying to fix cricket matches. I thought he was a wealthy man who liked to bet, who had won money on Australia in the past and wanted to express his thanks. I took it at face value and thought he was telling the truth.

"In hindsight I think it would have been better all for a us if the Board had made it public straight away."

The news that Mark Waugh and Shane Warne had taken money from a bookie broke after months of silence from the ACB in December 1998.

"In my heart I knew I had done nothing wrong. I would love John to come forward to confirm my version of the story. In future, if I can still help the cricket authorities to get to the bottom of anything relating to corruption then I will be happy to assist," he writes.

He further writes: "Like Hansie Cronje, Mohammad Azharuddin was another guy I never held under any suspicion, but who is said to have been involved. I thought of him as a very polite, sensitive, quiet person, who dressed extremely smartly away from the game.

"He was also a particularly high class batsman, capable of taking batting to another level on his day."

Even while discussing Sharjah and charges of it being the hotbed of corruption, Warne cannot help but allude to Tendulkar, albeit in a humorous vein.

"I have played in Sharjah, where investigations have centred, and not to my knowledge, set eyes upon a bookmaker.

"I am afraid, like Sachin's straight drives, it all went over my head!"

In Warne's opinion, match-fixing warrants a life ban and it is the duty of every cricketer to pass on any information, however small and insignificant it might seem to the authorities.

But his own gambling habits are no hidden secrets.

"I played Blackjack and Roulette and bet on Aussie rules, but never on cricket when I was involved."

Warne, who made his Test debut against India in 1991-92, says, "Apart from the pitches in India, the harsh conditions, heat and humidity explain why so few sides come out on top.

"But I must say that food did not present quite the problem for me that people might have imagined from some of the newspaper headlines and pictures of tinned spaghetti and baked beans being shipped out with the words 'To Shane Warne in India' plastered all over the crates."

Warne is indignant about the Australian team being labelled as the worst sledgers in the world.

"Fast bowlers generally sledge out of frustration. For some reason Australia have acquired the reputation of being the worst sledgers in the world, but I think New Zealand should hold the mantle.

"Compared to the Australian side I joined in the early 1990s, the team of today is relatively quiet, even with McGrath in our ranks," he writes.

And it was none other than Allan Border who taught Warne the usefulness of sledging.

"If things were not happening for me he (Border) suggested it was probably worth having a word with the batsman - not for the sake of having to go, but to switch myself on for the contest."

While Shane Warne may not have been included in Bradman's Dream Team, he has been voted one of the Five Greatest Cricketers of the 20th century along with Sir Donald Bradman, Gary Sobers, Vivian Richards and Jack Hobbs.

In the book, Warne lists his own Dream Team and Tendulkar, who is the only contemporary cricketer to find a place in Bradman's XI, figures in both Rest of the World Test and One-day teams.

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