We won't make Warne weary say Hants

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The Independent Online

Shane Warne will be his own taskmaster in a much-heralded county debut season which is set to earn him £155,000.

Some overseas stars come to England on the strict understanding that they will not be over-bowled in what is always a physically demanding programme.

But the Australian superstar's new Hampshire captain Robin Smith has received no such restrictive order from Warne's home cricket board.

The workload will be left to the record-breaking leg spinner, insisted Smith today after Warne prepared to take his bow on the domestic circuit, welcomed by familiar early season rain.

"I will not enjoy over-bowling Shane, it is up to him as to how much or little he wants to bowl," said Smith.

"If he's feeling fit and strong enough, I'm sure he'll want to bowl, and if he bowls well he'll take wickets. And if he takes wickets, he will enjoy it more.

"I certainly don't want to put any pressure on him to bowl any more than he wants to. As far as I'm aware, the ACB have made no requests."

On a more urgent subject, Warne would not be drawn into a long debate over the recent match-fixing allegations currently rocking the sport, apart from commenting that Hansie Cronje "should come out and say what happened and we can all get on with the game."

And Hampshire chairman Brian Ford stamped on the hot topic when Warne was unveiled at Southampton. It was a special day for the county and their crown jewel bowler.

Ford was happier to hear Warne say on the eve of his first match against Essex in the Benson & Hedges Cup at Chelmsford tomorrow: "Playing county cricket is a challenge and I'm certainly looking forward to it.

"My aim is to enjoy it, have a good time, make a few friends and hope along the way we might win something.

"I'm sure the standard in the County Championship is very high. There are some quality players here and I'm looking forward to experiencing it first hand.

"Robin Smith and I have had some great battles down the years. He told me Hampshire want to go places, and the main thing is team spirit. If you have a high team spirit, you generally come out on top in tight situations.

"Those battles against Smith often went Warne's way and indeed, he was something of a tormentor to his latest skipper in England-Australia Ashes clashes.

Smith will no doubt be doubly content that Warne is finally on his side and not amongst the opposition.

Warne's shoulder problems are now a thing of the past, and he added: "My game has been back to its best over the last 6-10 months, back to the old standard - back to my expectations and everyone else's expectations.

"But I never set myself any goals, no targets.

"Lots of my high points have been in England and against England and the 1993 Ashes series win was special."

Of course, Warne's arrival from Australia's one-day series in South Africa could not go without mention of the "wonder" ball which dismissed Mike Gatting at Old Trafford seven years ago - his first delivery in Test cricket in England.

"That was probably the best ball bowled in Test cricket. It was pretty special," added Warne.

Coaching the youngsters at Hampshire and passing on the experience of a glittering international career will also be part of Warne's brief.

Despite his amazing run of success, it still gnaws away at Warne that he has still not scored a first-class century.

That will be on his agenda in the next few months, and Smith promised: "He will have lots of opportunities to go out and score the big hundred."

With England left-arm paceman Alan Mullally joining the county from Leicestershire at a salary believed to be £95,000, Hampshire are budgeting for a loss of £150,000 on the season.

But if the sun shines and Warne regularly opens his box of tricks, maybe more spectators through the gates will help balance the Hampshire books - and an allusive century would not hurt either.