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Abyssinia Warnie: 10th Anniversary Edition

Submitted by rickeyre on January 22, 2013 - 10:35pm

Shane Warne seems to have been retiring forever.

In cricket's modern world of incremental exits, a legend can announce his retirement, celebrate a long emotional farewell, and then turn up playing another format for another team. (Hello Ricky Ponting, Muttiah Muralidharan, Sourav Ganguly.) But just as Warnie seems to be gone, he re-emerges. Like the monster in a slasher movie, or as I prefer to think of him, an escapee from the House of Wax.

The truth is that it was ten years ago today – January 22, 2003 – when Shane Warne announced his first retirement from cricket. He proclaimed that day that he would be giving up one-day internationals at the end of the World Cup, held in South Africa in the two following months.

As reported at the time, Warne decided that “helter-skelter one-dayers” were too taxing on his aging 33 year-old body, and that giving up ODIs would prolong his Test career by “five or six years”.

As it happened, he didn't play in the World Cup, pinged for a positive test which he attributed to his mum's medication. (Australia won without him.) His Test career lasted another four years, but including the one he sat out because of his drug transgression.

But his Test departure, announced before the start of the 2006-07 Ashes, turned that series, a 5-0 sweep to the Aussies, into one long farewell tour with Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer also getting in on the act. Who can ever forget the departing trio being serenaded by “The Operatic Voice of Sport” during the tea break of the opening day of the SCG Test?

From there, it seemed that Warne's departure from cricket would be low key, captaining Hampshire in the County Championship, and before the start of the 2008 England season the club announced his retirement from first-class cricket because of his “many other business and charitable interests”. For business, read “playing poker”.

Warne's 2008 retirement from Hampshire was marked by me with a blog post entitled “Abyssinia Warnie”. Little did I know that this would be just the first in a number of posts in the “Abyssinia Warnie” series, each documenting the great man's newest farewell to cricket. The article you are reading is number five.

I did a two-parter in 2009, reporting on his second season of Indian Premier League and on the legacy of wrist-spin that he failed to leave behind in Australia.

In 2011, I documented the subdued end to his fourth season of IPL, and predicted that not even the forthcoming Big Bash League would entice him to play longer. I was wrong.

Cricket Australia circumvented its own salary cap rules to put Warne on a generous marketing retainer to play for the Melbourne Stars in the BBL's inaugural 2011-12 season. He brought publicity to the league, people through the gate, and viewers to the television to watch him self-commentate from the field. And he brought Liz Hurley to the corporate box, and his kids from his former marriage to toss the coin.

But the 2012-13 Big Bash, officially called BBL|02, was another matter. He proclaimed before season's start that he “could” play for Australia in the 2013 Ashes if they wanted him. His bowling in the opening game of the BBL suggested otherwise: 2-0-41-0.

He skipped a game with the Stars (albeit pre-negotiated) to spend an extended Christmas in London with Ms Hurley. (They won without him.) But things really unravelled on January 6 in the Melbourne Stars-Renegade derby when he lost the plot in an altercation with Marlon Samuels, incurring a one-match suspension.

Returning for the semi-final against Perth on January 16, he stepped down as captain to avoid the risk of a further ban for slow over-rates, apparently blissfully unaware that the tournament rules did not allow him to do this. The Stars lost their semi, Warne was charged with a Code of Behaviour breach. He went off to combine his business and charitable interests, ie, playing poker for charity, skipped his hearing, then launched a Twitter tirade against the Stars management for not stopping him from breaking the rules.

Yes I do think, ten years after his first goodbye, that we've definitely seen the last of Shane Warne in major competitive cricket this time. His grumpy exit from the BBL|02 stage is the sign of an overblown ego who stayed one year too long and has burnt too many bridges.

Or as I prefer to think of it, burnt down the whole House of Wax.

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