Widely regarded as one of the greatest bowlers in the history of the game – and certainly the most charismatic cricketer to have ever donned whites, it was no surprise that in early 2008, Shane Warne was on the radar of the Rajasthan Royals management when it came to considering a Captain / Coach for their first IPL Campaign. However, pundits expressed doubts… Was Warne too long in the tooth? Would he be fully committed to the cause in this new and challenging venture? Would he stay injury free throughout what was going to be a daunting fixture schedule? The Royals owners decided to gamble (quite appropriate bearing in mind Warney was a top poker player) and it turned out to be a stroke of genius!
Their successful bid in the auction amounted to $450,000 – and it was clearly money well spent. Throughout the 2008 Royals Campaign, Warney excelled with his bowling, with his fielding and with his captaincy. He was an inspirational leader, adored by his players. Shane’s field placings were astute, his calculated rotation of bowlers hugely effective and his plans on how to remove opposition batsmen rigorously thought out. The skipper even led from the front with the bat, taking Andrew Symonds apart in one final over to lead his team to an exciting win against the Deccan Chargers. Warne successfully led the Royals through the round robin stage, topping the table, and then he oversaw the trouncing of the Delhi Daredevils in the semi. In the IPL 2008 Final, it must have been written in the stars that Warney would be out in the middle when the winning runs were scored by Tanvir off the final ball.
Warney continued as captain of the Royals for another four entertaining seasons. His aggressive captaincy and impeccable man management skills were striking, so much so that experts reckoned Warne could have been Australia’s greatest captain, if he’d been given the chance. Warne counts not being given the Test Match captaincy of Australia as one of his career regrets. ‘I have given my heart and soul to Australian cricket. I’ve helped put backsides on seats and made spin bowling more interesting. I have played in an aggressive, animated, emotional way which reflects the pride I take in representing my country. That should have counted for something, I would have thought.’ He may regret not becoming his country’s best ever skipper, but Warney will surely have no regrets about leading the Rajasthan Royals during the swansong of his career. He will always have a special place in Royals fans’ hearts as our heroic inspirational skipper during a glorious time in our Franchise’s history.