No sooner has the season preview gone up and the captain has deserted his ship, giving his employers just three weeks notice that he will not be coming back for one third of the season after all. Still, you can’t stay mad at Warney for long. He has been fantastic for Hampshire, although he must surely regret never having won the Championship, despite coming so close back in 2005. I doubt that David Fulton will go down in history as one of Warne’s closest friends but that is all in the past. Under Warne Hampshire learnt how to win and rose to the top echelons of both limited and unlimited overs cricket.
He joined the club back in 2000, becoming captain in 2004. In his near eight year association with the club he took 276 first class wickets at an average of 25.59 and even chipped in with 2040 runs. A fine record indeed, but it will always nark Warne that Mushtaq Ahmed has a better record and has enjoyed more success with Sussex. He also appears to have outlasted him.
However, it wasn’t just bowling, vital lower order runs and exemplary slip catching which Warne brought to Hampshire though, he also brought with him an amazing enthusiasm for the game (not perhaps Twenty20), cunning tactical awareness and a winning mentality. That winning mentality played a big role in 2005 when the Hawks lifted the C&G Trophy, minus Warne.
The reigns now pass to Dimitri Mascarenhas, who captained the club during the Twenty20 campaign last year. However, Mascarenhas will miss the start of the season because of commitments in the IPL and will undoubtedly go on to make more appearances for England over the summer. He inherits a young and fairly inexperienced side, especially in the bowling department.
Liam Dawson will now be given the chance to impress over the entire season, which is fantastic news for both himself and England. Greg Lamb may well get a bit more of a bowl this year as well, whilst Shaun Udal is surely regretting his decision to leave the county of his birth for Middlesex. It will be interesting to see who is brought in as Warne’s replacement come the latter stages of the season, with an extension to Shane Watson’s contract extremely desirable.
Ultimately Rod Bransgrove has delivered a fitting summary; “Hampshire Cricket has been hugely privileged to have enjoyed the unstinting loyalty of this living legend since 2000. The most effective and entertaining bowler of all time, Shane was also a brilliant leader and strategist. As our captain, his influence was instrumental in the development of Hampshire into one of the country's top sides and he enriched the game wherever he played.” Good luck Shane, county cricket will be poorer for your loss, but oh so much richer for having shared in your story.