Stop the nonsense

One thing is for sure, when Shane Warne speaks to the media they listen. And generally read way too much into whatever he says. Either that or they’ll twist his answers so get themselves a few good headlines. Shane Warne won’t be making a comeback, so let’s stop pretending that he will. We’re closing in on 6 years since he retired from international cricket, it’s time to move on.

It seems to happen roughly every 6 months, someone asks Warne a question and regardless of what the question, or his answer, was it somehow sets alight dozens of news articles and reports about how he intends to make a comeback to the test arena. Usually the questions and answers go something like this:

Q: What do you think of Australia’s bowling strength?
A: I think their spin options still need work.

Media translation: Warne is making a comeback.

Q: You’ve been retired for 6 years, are you still good enough to compete in the BBL?
A: I’ll keep playing for as long as I believe I’m good enough.

Media translation: Warne is making a comeback.

Q: When’s your next poker tournament?
A: In England next June.

Media translation: Oh, that’s just before the Ashes. Warne is making a comeback.

Ok, you get the point. It’s just ridiculous. It’s time to move on. I almost get the feeling that Warne is deliberately baiting the media to see how they react. If that’s the case he’s doing a sensational job. However, all this sensationalised silliness is probably not good for Australian cricket, and while I’m certain that’s not the intention of Shane it might be time to stop telling the media things that they want to hear.

Why? Because there are so many sane, logical reasons why at this point, for both Warne and Australian Cricket, that a comeback is never going to happen.

He’s 43…

Sure, he might look fitter than he ever did when playing, but he’s 43 – that makes him roughly 20 years older than the guys he’d be playing with and against were he to return. And what if he did make a comeback, then what? He plays for 1 or 2 years and then we go back to where we are now. What exactly would be the point, and how could it be a good thing for either party?

…and Test cricket is different to T20

It’s one thing to still have ‘it’ and be capable of bowling a 4 overs in a Twenty20 game. It’s an entirely different thing to think that translates to being able to bowl 90 overs across the five days of a test – as Nathan Lyon did recently in Adelaide. If Warne bowls his full compliment of 4 overs in every game of this years BBL, even including an appearance in the semi-final and final, he’ll only bowl 40 overs spread across 6 weeks. And already he won’t be doing that because he only bowled 2 overs in the the Stars first game on Friday… and those two overs cost him 41 runs.

Nathan Lyon is the first choice spinner.

Of the 20 debutantes that arrived in the Australian team during the roughly 5 years between when Warne retired and when Nathan Lyon was picked, 7 of them were spinners (picked either as specialists or all-rounders). Beau Casson, Cameron White, Jason Krejza, Bryce McGain, Steven Smith, Xavier Doherty, Michael Beer have all come and gone. Between them (excluding the one test that Beer played along side Lyon in April this year) they played 14 tests and took 25 wickets at a very ordinary average of 60.5. If you also remove Krejza’s 2 tests for 13 wickets that average blows out dramatically to 79.3.

Since Lyon entered the team he’s played 16 tests, and taken 54 wickets at an average of 30.6, stellar by comparison to the efforts of others in the preceding few years. For the sake of further comparison Warne, after 16 tests, had taken 60 wickets at 28. At this point there should be no further discussion about it, the spinner’s spot is Nathan Lyon’s for the foreseeable future until his, and no-one else’s, form dictates otherwise.

The talk of a mythical Warne comeback must surely be psychologically damaging for Lyon. If it’s not bad enough for him that he’s being constantly, and unfairly, judged by the same expectations that we held for Warne at his peak, he now has to listen to media fantasizing about a Warne comeback. In other words, he’s now being put under pressure by the media on the basis of a preposterously unlikely return of a guy who hasn’t played first-class cricket for nearly 6 years.

Don’t shatter the illusion.

Comebacks rarely go as well as planned, just ask Michael Schumacher. The most successful F1 driver of all time has made zero impact since he returned to the F1 circus a couple of years ago, he just hasn’t competitive – and now that his spot at Mercedes has been filled its likely he’ll be retiring for a second time. Of course this probably won’t damage what people think Of Schuey in years to come, but it certainly won’t help it either.

A ‘proper’ return of Warne – or any other cricketer who has been out of the game for an extended period for that matter – would very likely end the same way. It’s one thing to come out of retirement and play a few T20 games as Warne, along with fellow spinners Brad Hogg and Stuart MacGill, did for the inaugural Big Bash League. It something else entirely to make a full blown comeback to test cricket.

We all love Warnie. We love what he contributed to Australian cricket for so many years. In the initial years following his retirement – which many felt came maybe a year or two early – when we struggled to find a suitable replacement we all wanted him back. But it’s been 6 years, the Australian cricket team has moved on, its found Nathan Lyon and he’s doing a more than respectable job. It’s time everyone else moved on as well.

I’m more than happy to see Warne still taking part in the Big Bash League, especially when he’s wired for sound and able to give a running commentary. Of all the ex-cricketer’s who’ve ended up in the commentary box in recent years, Warne is easily one of the best. Maybe a coaching/mentoring role is where he needs to go next, and should the remainder of this years BBL go like Friday’s game that might end up being where we see him next year.

Cricket still needs Shane Warne in some capacity, but that capacity is certainly not as an international player.