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An Open Letter to Shane Warne

Sent to Abc of Cricket by Sidharth Monga

Dear Mr Warne,

Itís your misfortune that you chose such a time to grace the cricket field, a time when the media is at its highest boom. With a serious dearth of heroes in society, mass communication agencies have turned to sport to find heroes; to turn players into superstars;to earn fortunes out of bringing top sportsmenís lives into the public eye.

As a result, it becomes exceedingly difficult for a sporting hero to carry on his business at his own will. But still, there are players who have inborn instincts to stay away from controversy. Players like Sachin Tendulkar and Pete Sampras are as ordinary off the field as extraordinary on the field. The Bradmans and the Woods of the world have led a low-key life off the field, letting their bats and clubs do all the talking.

And quite clearly, you donít share similar personality traits with those guy-next-door champions. You are a spontaneous and vibrant character who loves the spotlight. You donít let the ball alone do the talking; you flaunt your spinning finger from the playersí balcony to your detractors after already showing its magic on the field. Quite frankly, you wouldnít be you if you had those characteristics of staying away from controversies, the hallmark of the above mentioned champions. For if you were a quiet champion with no controversy to boast of, you would have been only the best leg spinner of all time who answers to the call of one Shane Warne, but never would you have been the lovable rogue Warney; the showman; the showstopper; the man whom people would love to call Shane ĎHollywoodí Warne.

You came to cricket at a time when the game badly needed characters. Viv Richards had gone and Ian Botham did not have much left in him either and we needed a man, like Botham, whom we would so love to hate. A character, is exactly what you turned out to be.

Your first ball in an Ashes Series left Mike Gatting, another controversial figure, as baffled as Adam on Mothersí day. You had the modesty to admit that Sachin haunted you in your dreams by hitting you for sixes. You had the steel to come back from nowhere to churn out two Man of the Match performances in the semi-finals and finals of the 1999 World Cup. A genius on the field, you were naÔve enough to accept money from a bookmaker in lieu of weather and pitch information then silly enough take diuretics to shed unwanted weight. You were brave enough to admit that you had been involved in a phone sex scandal with a British nurse, even though it meant losing the prospective captaincy of the national side.

Far more surprisingly, you are responsible for reviving the sublime art of leg spin, which quite ironically, demands the sternest of disciplines and deepest of commitments.

Now you have another woman with similar allegations as the British nurse once imposed on you. If your confession in the earlier case is anything to go by, I take this to be a blatant action by a person attempting to set you up for personal gains, as your manager has put it. But in this case, what I think does not matter at all, neither does the mediaís opinion and nor what the woman alleges. Itís what your wife, Simone thinks that matters the most. She is the most important person to you today. Itís your relationship with her that will determine how well you come back from this latest girth.

A sportsmanís career is complete only if he has successfully negotiated the following four seasons:

  • The first, when people reckon this man has got some talent and is a promising prospect
  • Only a part of such talent makes it to the second season where the world is at their feet, where everything they touch, becomes gold.
  • Then arrives the autumn, the third season where people start doubting them, when people press for their retirement.
  • And then the fourth season, where only a few make people eat humble pie, where those few evergreen champions make people believe they spoke too soon.

In this aspect, you have had a fulfilling career. You and your good mate Steve Waugh, have faced the third season more than once and you have successfully come back every time you have been down. While Steve Waugh is enjoying the fourth season, you find yourself down, your private life being ventured into, your integrity being questioned and your very conscience being challenged. If someone were trying to tell me you have mesmerized batsmen all over the world riding on those stupid pills, I would seriously have a psychiatrist arranged for that someone.

Now, at the twilight of your career, I donít think there are any doubts left as to your talent. Whether you surpass Courtney Walshís record and whether, if you do, you are surpassed by Murali, is only a game of numbers and numbers will never tell the whole story.

But I am sure there will be a bigger urge inside you to come back now that there are people who doubt your integrity, people who try to pull you to unexplored depths. This will be the most difficult comeback you have made so far and if I follow my gut feeling which comes from being an instinctive fan of yours, the best is yet to come. I just have a feeling you will come back and you will bowl better than you ever did and thus, for a change, let the ball do all the talking.

Good Luck mate

Sidharth

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