Shane Warne's status as one of the greatest players to play the game of cricket is undisputed. Yet there are worrying signs that, as he embarks on probably his final season for Hampshire, he is in danger of damaging his legacy.
As skipper of Hampshire, Warne has been excellent, imbuing his team-mates with evident self-belief - which palpably drops when he is not on the pitch - and taking them close to the Championship on several occasions. He claims his motivation to win the County Championship is the primary reason why he did not retire after Australia emphatically regained the Ashes a year ago.
Any captain of a county could reasonbly be expected to play a full and active part in pre-season preparation, to endeavour to prepare his side for probably the biggest prize on offer outside of the international game. Warne should be hatching strategies with the coach and senior players, whilst assessing how his squad are shaping up for a Championship hilt. Instead, he will play in the Indian Premier League, earning copious sums for a few weeks of Twenty20 action. Ironically, he does not play for Hampshire in the Twenty20 Cup, saying he needs a mid-season break. This year, he will be jetting off to Las Vegas during the Twenty20 Cup, to play poker. However, that appears not to be the end of it, as he is contracted to play in further tournaments in the UK and New Zealand.
Due to his commitments with the IPL, Warne will definitely miss the opening Championship game, at home to county champions Sussex. If this really is his last season, Warne would be better off committing fully to Hampshire, ensuring they have the best possible chance of winning the Championship he claims to covet so much. Instead he is making life extremely difficult for the county, necessitating the recruitment of locum overseas players because he cannot resist other options.
In jumping from one lucrative exploit to the next, and fitting in a few games for Hampshire around his other commitments, Warne is giving the appearance of believing himself too big to spend a season in the mundane settings of county cricket, preferring to chase the dollar elsewhere. How he will be able to achieve an 'all-for one and one-for-all' mentality whilst giving the appearance of considering himself above his team-mates is something of a mystery. After all, what sort of leader abandons his team-mates to earn yet more cash, whilst hoping to seize the glory if they lift trophies? A legend, yes, but in danger of being perceived as a very arrogant man too.
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