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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 July, 2004, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Warne fights trials of time
By Martin Gough

Warne celebrates
Now 34, Warne has so often laughed in the face of adversity
Ever since Mike Gatting was clean bowled from Shane Warne's first delivery bowled in an English Test, cricket is always surprised by the exploits of the celebrated Australian.

As Gatting trudged back to the Old Trafford pavilion, the Melbourne boy nicknamed Hollywood, then only 24 but already sporting the trademark bleach-blond hair, was on his way to being the best leg-spinner the game had ever seen.

With the sheer number of Test matches being played in the last few years, records for longevity are falling like tail-end batsmen facing Warne's wrong 'un.

But to reach unprecedented career milestones - Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan currently share a world record 527 Test wickets each - a player still has to have outstanding staying power.

With injury and controversy, Warne's career simply should not have lasted 11 years and it is his ability to come back from the greatest adversity that marks him out as extra special.

His first hurdle was even making it into first-class cricket after he was released from the Australian Cricket Academy in Adelaide for failure to take training seriously.

A year later he was helping Australia to a Test victory over Sri Lanka, with 3-11 in Colombo.

TOP TEST WICKET-TAKERS
S Warne (Australia)
527 in 112 matches
M Muralitharan (Sri Lanka)
527 in 90 matches
C Walsh (West Indies)
519 in 132 matches
Kapil Dev (India)
434 in 131 matches
Sir R Hadlee (New Zealand)
431 in 86 matches
G McGrath (Australia)
430 in 95 matches
As Australia built their dominance in the 1990s, Warne took the image of a leg-spinner from an idiosyncratic sideshow to an attacking weapon in any Test side.

Batsmen who could stare down the most fiery of pace bowlers became gibbering wrecks when faced by Warne, even on a surface that did not offer turn to anyone else.

"The triumph of Shane Keith Warne is of the rarest kind, of both substance and style together," said Wisden as it named him one of the five cricketers of the 20th century.

But that was only enough to get him to the 300-wicket mark, against South Africa in 1998.

The rest of his career has been a battle to keep his career on track.

Warne's 1998-99 Ashes series was derailed by serious shoulder trouble, which required surgery, and by the revelations that he and team-mate Mark Waugh had received money from bookmakers.

So serious was the public outcry that Warne publicly considered retiring, but of course that was after he had led Australia to the 1999 World Cup as the tournament's leading wicket-taker.

A positive drug test could have ended Warne's career
Two years later others were publicly considering his retirement after a dreadful series in India where he averaged over 50 as Australia suffered a surprise reverse.

Warne was the leading wicket-taker in the 4-1 Ashes series victory that followed in England, passing 400 in the process.

He then set about revolutionising his training regime to help him deal better with adverse conditions.

Out went the lager and the burgers, in came baked beans and extra training that saw him lose 22lbs.

He pronounced himself better than ever as he ran through Pakistan in Sharjah and claimed his first 10-wicket haul on the subcontinent.

But his career was halted again by the biggest hurdle so far as he tested positive for a banned substance - a fluid-loss agent which can be used to help lose weight or to mask steroid use.

He was banned for a year from February 2003, but is back taking wickets on a regular basis and has lost none of his appetite for the game.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: Shane Warne




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15 Jun 04  |  Cricket


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