James Lawton: A Shane Warne comeback? The Aussies should put a call into Lillee while they're at it
Why would Warne go back to something which he can benefit from as long as he lives and expose it to the possibility of mockery
Tuesday 07 December 2010
If the idea is so outrageous and impractical why would it be guaranteed to light up most every man, woman and child here in this vast country as though they had just been plugged into the mains?
There are two reasons. One is that the plan would involve Shane Warne and the other is that if it gets off the ground it will have the potential to make the legend of Ned Kelly seem like some tawdry, low-key item from Crimewatch.
Seventy-one per cent of readers polled by a Melbourne newspaper believe that a lifeline for arguably the poorest Australian team in more than 30 years might best be found in an appeal in the national interest for Warne to come out of retirement after four years.
They point out that apart from being the greatest living Australian, a man so in tune with popular culture his TV ratings are currently flying off the graph, he is also like many former professional sportsmen who exchange the field or the court for a studio or stage. He is probably a lot fitter now than when he was concluding the final stages of his remarkable pursuit of 708 Test wickets.
At 41, many here believe that Warne would require not much more than a week in the nets to make him an infinitely better prospect than the stream of slow bowlers who have attempted to replace him since he bowed out at the Sydney Cricket Ground with a beautiful delivery that had someone no less than Freddie Flintoff comprehensively stumped.
That kind of flourish, produced by a combination of genius and bone-deep awareness of the foibles and weaknesses of batsmanship, most of Australia believes would still be comfortably within Warne's grasp when the action moves to Perth for the third Test at the end of next week.
Warne would probably go along with such a suspicion because, almost from the moment he said farewell to the game he served so sublimely, the stream of advice and sometimes derision he has directed at his former captain Ricky Ponting has been relentless.
Is there even a vague possibility that Warnie might be drawn back into the arena, have one more go at the old challenge, one more stab at the feeling that you are indeed the king of your world?
It becomes more feasible, certainly, when you consider the huge impact it would have in Australia at a time when many believe the remnants of a great team are touching outright bankruptcy, and especially in the bowling department. This perception has only been underlined here after a second straight failure to curb, let alone damage, an English batting line-up that has rarely looked so full of confidence and runs.
Here, Warne's 28-year-old successor Xavier Doherty has appeared particularly futile, a decent cricketer, no doubt, but one apparently hopelessly miscast as a candidate to exploit Kevin Pietersen's vulnerability while facing a slow left-armer.
Pietersen looked about as inhibited as a tea clipper with the wind in its sails when Doherty attempted to check his march to 227 on Sunday and yesterday. Could Warne, a mere four years out of his pomp, not do better? The growing public response is positive.
After all the years of pain, England can be excused a somewhat sarcastic response to the Australian desperation.
If Warne was to return to the baggy green colours, why stop there? Perhaps Bill Lawry, a sprightly 73, could again stiffen up the top of the batting order. Richie Benaud, a superior all-rounder if we ever saw one, is a mere 80, and given the failures of the new pace attack of Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris perhaps Dennis Lillee, 61, could also answer his nation's call.
Still, there is a limit as to how far we can go with this. Back in 1956, the embattled England selectors, having lost an early Ashes Test match and worried about a certain brittleness in the opening batting department, asked one of their own number if he would be good enough to leave the room.
It was the 41-year-old Cyril Washbrook, the former England opener who made his reputation in the company of Sir Len Hutton, and when he returned he found he was back in the team. He scored 98 at Headingley, England won and were further lifted by Jim Laker, who took 19 wickets at Old Trafford.
England also thought nothing of hauling back the great Colin Cowdrey some time after he had stood down from the Test game. Their reward was some obdurate and courageous performances against none other than the fearsome Jeff Thomson.
Now the challenge might just await Warne if he could put aside for a little while the certainties of his new life as a professional celebrity. It would require a certain amount of nerve and considerable risk. At the moment, wherever Warne goes he is fêted. Whatever he says, on cricket at least, is received as the kind of wisdom that tends to be written on stones and carried down from the mountain top.
This makes him one of the more enviable figures in a country where the slide of the national cricket team is no doubt more than balanced by the fact that you can dig a hole virtually anywhere from Darwin to Hobart and come with up with something of immense value in new booming economies like those of China and India and Brazil. So would he risk any of that huge and profitable aura in a return to the cricket arena?
Reality, and the preservation of an extremely good thing, suggests not. Why go back to something you made for all time – and which you can benefit from as long as you live – and expose it to the possibility of mockery for just a few days? There is only the lure of pride and, maybe, the possibility of being alive once more in a way you thought you might never know again.
It's a long old shot but then Shane Warne's team is in a deep old plight.
Change is needed but not so we can play Fifa footsie
Mike Lee is the public relations hotshot who helped deliver the Olympic bids of London and Rio and is now talking up the victory of his latest clients with the ludicrous and sickening staging of the 2022 World Cup by Qatar.
He is also categorising the failed England bid as a Premier League relegation performance and that the organisers of it should examine their campaign and learn from it.
The feeling here is that they would do better to weigh any future ambitions against the fact that Qatar managed to persuade 14 Fifa members that it was a good idea to take the world's greatest sports tournament to a place that could only have been less suitable had it been located in the burning heat of Mars.
Apart from attending to the problem of developing the nation's young football talent, English football should have one other clear priority.
It is to take every opportunity to expose the kind of football administration that could take the World Cup not to a place of football culture but an obscure corner of Arabia which just happens to own some of the world's richest deposits in gas and oil.
Lee says England has to sharpen its performance. Maybe so, but not in the matter of playing footsie with Fifa, not in aping the slickness of Qatar, but working to see that such a scandal never happens again.
Cops right to wage war on noisy Army
Somebody called Vic Flowers, who is also known as Jimmy Savile (don't ask because it's just too tedious), is described as the spiritual leader of the Barmy Army.
This, in the view of Adelaide's finest, doesn't quite put him in the Mahatma Gandhi league, a verdict they underlined by slinging him out of the Test match venue here this week. This was a reaction to what the police described as anti-social behaviour.
Eventually, he was let back into the game, a development which was welcomed by "Army" general Dave Peacock, who had said that the early action "might have provoked a riot".
There is still a view prevailing in some quarters that the Barmy Army are an unending source of good cheer and enjoyment and entertainment on their travels around the cricket world. This is a perception that cannot be rooted in any long experience of their interminable noise and their self-advertising antics.
The Adelaide Police Department seem, at least in this quarter, to have got it just about right.
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