There have been some pretty strong critiques of Shane Warne post-Marlon Samuels-bat-shirt-fracas. My favorite comes from The Guardian:
On the pitch, though, this Stepford Wives-style Warne is looking older than ever. He has turned in a series of performances for the Melbourne Stars in Australia’s Big Bash League that have spanned the range from embarrassing to mediocre. He’s been a wax-mannequin manqué, hapless with the ball, helpless in the field and with the bat.
Fair enough. On the other hand, life can be fairly hard for cricketers after they retire. You spend about twenty or more years training for a specific task, and then you find you then have to turn to at least another thirty years of life. You could go into coaching, but not if you have concerns about spending time with your family. If you know how to talk and act the showman, as Warne does, you head straight to the commentary box and try to retain at least a shred of dignity before fans figure out you’re just a jumble of catch-phrases. What Warne has tried to do is quite revolutionary — he understands that T20 leagues are basically dressed-up pick-up cricket games. People aren’t watching because they want the finest cricket; they want to drink, see a few shots, and players do crazy things. In T20, there is a fine line between the exhibition match and the real thing. To argue that Warne hasn’t performed well in the Big Bash League is to miss the point — which is, “Mom, dad, can we go see Shane Warne at the stadium today?”
One more interesting thing: T20 introduced a number of ancillary elements to cricket coverage, like a hyped-up DJ, cheerleaders, and silly ways to resolve ties. It also started to break the fourth wall and have commentators talk to cricketers on the ground during play. In theory, this could be a lot of fun, but from what I’ve seen, most players are either too distracted, too timid, or just completely lacking in verbal intelligence to say anything remotely interesting. Not Warne — he’s talking to the commentators right before he’s bowling. “I wouldn’t mind if he took a single here,” he says. Now imagine if Warne had confronted Samuels without the F-bomb, or the tugging of the shirt. What if he had said something aggressive but within the bounds of cricket, like, “It must be harder to bat with a bent arm, eh Marlon?” Wouldn’t we have all loved to “overhear” that exchange? Cricket match as reality television, people: welcome to the future.
Slightly biased because I’m a Hampshire man, but I like Warney. I hope that this current T20 thing doesn’t affect the legacy he’d got in my mind otherwise, but it’s tough as a cricket fan seeing one of the cricketing gods strutting around with his saggy turkey neck getting caned by mediocre players, still with the lip and arrogance but not even half the man he was.
And I quite like the ‘rumours’ of sledges more than I like actually hearing them.
Really good point about the link between T20 and exhibition cricket, it is clearly marketed in Australia as a spectacle rather than as a showcase of sporting talent. The problem with spectacle type events though is that they drift in and out fashion, how many people would go to a circus tent these days? I fear that by trying too hard to become fashionable through T20, cricket as a sport has ruined it’s own long term future.