You could probably get away with saying that it’s not exactly been the best fortnight for the Australian Test team. Things have gone somewhat….awry. Not quite exactly to plan. But for all of the turmoil of the past few weeks – losing Test matches, losing Test captains, losing any semblance of respectability – we suspect it may prove to have been an even more difficult period for Shane Keith Warne, whose stock has plummeted rapidly to trash status. Which in cricketing terms is about equal to Shaun Marsh’s.
Whinging about Warne has become something of a common pastime, not just here but pretty much anywhere else you care to look around the web. It’s hard to think of anyone who, so soon after retiring from a game he dominated for decades, could so quickly feel utterly irrelevant to it. It’s like the game has moved on in massive strides since Warne retired. But it hasn’t really. For a start, he only gave up the gig completely in 2013. Cricket hasn’t really changed a whole lot since then, so we can only conclude, given Warne’s increasing insignificance, that he must be somehow moving backwards through time at a pretty incredible rate. Given his recent comments on Adam Goodes, it seems somewhere in the mid 1950’s is his final destination.
His latest in a series of outbursts was utterly bizarre, in that he demanded everyone stopped making his mate Michael Clarke a scapegoat for Australia’s Ashes campaign (which nobody was really doing in the first place, just pointing out that he has been a bit shit in it), and offered instead the opinion that everything, and we mean absolutely everything, was somehow the fault of John Buchanan, who in the space of a few years had somehow managed to utterly destroy Australian cricket. Or something. Buggered if we could make sense of what he was ranting about, but it was pretty spectacular nonetheless.
The standard complaint when it comes to Warne is that he’s pretty good when talking about spin bowling but doesn’t have a whole lot to offer beyond that. This has been further reinforced recently through the commentary of Ricky Ponting. When Ponting talks about Test captaincy, you tend to listen, because even if he wasn’t the best regarded Test captain there ever was, he did the job a fair few times and seems to know what he’s talking about. Same for batting, which Ponting unsurprisingly seems to know a thing or two about, or even now coaching, given he’s tipped his hand in the IPL already and looks likely to coach a fair bit more into the future.
It’s not that Warne isn’t allowed to comment on matters he has little experience with, but when he comes out and lectures a former Australian coach because “he never played the game, doesn’t know what the players go through”, he unsurprisingly looks pretty bloody stupid. Especially when Warne has spent the past few years bagging Alastair Cook’s captaincy, and bigging up his mate Clarkey’s, despite having never actually captained a Test match himself.
The way Ponting has been able to offer actual insight, based on personal experience and even a little introspection, instead of just repeating the same point over and over again, is quickly making Warne look like a dinosaur. But it gets even worse for him. With Clarke’s impending retirement, his last ‘mate’ has been removed from the Australian setup. In the past Warne has been able to get away with talking utter crap on the grounds the players are all still his buddies, and therefore take his criticism at face value. That’s not really the case anymore. Incidents like last summer, when he seemingly managed to piss everyone off in the Australian setup by claiming Starc looked soft, suggest the players are probably already getting tired of his grandstanding.
In the short term we can see three commentators supplanting him,those being Ponting, Ryan Harris and Michael Clarke, all of whom have already shown themselves to be far better informed, and better spoken, then Warne could ever be. The general reception to his interviews after the World Cup final also seems to suggest that the public are finally recognising that he is nothing but a one trick pony, whose particular trick is an ability to constantly manage to shit all over its hind legs. Channel Nine are hardly going to ditch him outright, especially since Channel Nine are so indifferent to what constitutes good taste these days they and Warne make almost the perfect match, but we can see his star hopefully beginning to fade. As for Sky, they might now be realising that there are better options out there in regards to ex-Australian players, and that even after only a few years we’ve already heard pretty much every ‘anecdote’ Warne knowns, and one more story about the ‘julios and nerds’ in the Australian team is likely to result in viewers putting their fist through the TV.
But it’s around the Australian setup where Warne will be on very thin ice. It’s not that Warne shouldn’t be allowed to criticise players, but the Australian camp is likely to be a tad touchy about such things for a little while. With a new captain and a whole heap of new players, the last thing they’ll want is some washed up hack delivering nothing but constant criticism. And with no besties in the team anymore, Warne’s ability to smooth things over afterwards will be pretty redundant.
Given that discretion seems to be a pretty alien concept to Warne (too many vowels, you see), our prediction, which (given our track record of approximately one correct call out of several hundred) should be taken with a pinch of salt, is that within the next year to 18 months, Warne will become persona non grata within the Australian setup. If Warne could just stick to what he does best, commenting on spin bowling, and a bit on the psychological side of the game, and avoid pontificating on everything else, there wouldn’t be an issue. But that seems to be beyond him, and our guess is that he will cross the line one too many times, most likely in criticising Steven Peter Devereux Smith’s captaincy, and that the Australian setup will simply start to ignore him.
Obviously our hope is that this will be quickly followed by everyone else in the world, and that Warne will be rapidly reduced to incoherently ranting about a game that no longer has any need for him in an obscure newspaper column somewhere. The modern equivalent of Neil Harvey, if you will. Or the print version of 51allout perhaps [or the website version – Ed]. Either way, we don’t think he will be missed.