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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Warne turns hand to charity

Warne turns hand to charity

July 21, 2004 10:41 IST
Long a controversial figure, Australian cricketer Shane Warne has been following in the footsteps of his former captain Steve Waugh by getting involved in charity work.

Waugh, named in January as the Australian of the Year, is admired as much for his humanitarian efforts as for his sporting feats.

The 38-year-old Waugh retired from Test cricket earlier this year as the game's most-capped player. He has secured endorsement contracts in India and is well known for his charity work since 1998 for the children of leprosy victims in the Calcutta area.

No-one disputes joint world record-holder Warne's cricketing skills but his many off-field scandals, including a 12-month doping ban in February 2003, have badly dented his public image.

When he returning to cricket in March for the tour of Sri Lanka after serving the suspension for taking a banned diuretic, the 34-year-old Warne claimed 26 wickets in Australia's 3-0 series victory.

In the two-match home series against Sri Lanka earlier this month, Warne took 10 wickets to equal Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan's world mark of 527.

CHARITY AUCTION

The Australian immediately demonstrated both why he is perceived as a big-hearted hero of the people and why he continues to draw criticism.

The leg-spinner told reporters he had worked harder for his wickets than Muralitharan, because the Sri Lankan often bowled on spin-friendly wickets and Warne had to battle away on pitches more suited to pace bowling.

However, Warne also announced he would auction the ball used to equal the world record.

"I wanted to do something for children and I hope this raises a lot of money for those in need," said Warne, before returning to his English club Hampshire.

Warne's brother and manager Jason said this week the cricket ball auction would soon be launched on the player's website.

"There are going to be three Australian charities chosen that work at the coalface with underprivileged and sick kids," Jason Warne told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"It's definitely something that he wants to be an international thing.

"As far as charity work in the last 18 months is concerned, the foundation (The Shane Warne Foundation) is something he has been working on for quite a few years. Last year with his time off, he actually had the time to do it."

MOVING EXPERIENCE

Jason Warne said his brother had been moved by the experience of making a trip to the United States last year with Australian children who were suffering from cancer.

"Even though it was something he really wanted to do, that trip really provided the impetus to get him focused and to get it all put in place," Jason Warne said.

"As far as the foundation goes, the year off was probably what he needed to be able to do it."

But not everyone is moved by Warne's efforts.

A reader of Tasmania newspaper The Mercury, Daniel Clarke, said in a letter to the editor published last weekend: "Isn't it hypocritical that Australian cyclists are disgraced by drug use, Olympians are investigated for potential drug use, and yet Shane Warne, convicted for taking a drug, is congratulated on equalling a world record when he should still be under suspension?"

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chief Dick Pound expressed his disappointment last year that the cricketer had not been given the minimum two-year suspension under WADA guidelines.

A letter in the Geelong Advertiser newspaper from Bob Dare, also published at the weekend, said: "My advice to Mr Warne is that he accepts his record quietly and quit criticising Muralitharan's achievements.

"Muralitharan has had to bowl against the Australian batting -- the best in the world -- and that is something that Warne has not had to do!"

Greg Buckle
Source:
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