'I was pretty lucky to play in a good era of Australian cricket'
Former Australia spin ace Shane Warne talks about his IPL journey and experience as captain of Rajasthan Royals, in an exclusive interview with cricket expert Harsha Bhogle for CNN-IBN .
If we took a shortlist of the greatest players who have played the game over the last 130-140 years and decide it is going to be a very small short list, then the person sitting opposite would make everybody's very small short list and that's why I am really excited Warnie to be with you?
Thanks, Harsha, always nice to catch up with you too mate.
Yeah, and what you have achieved there with the Royals, I know you have had a stunning embellished career with the Australian cricket team, but what you have achieved with the Royals must satisfy you enormously?
I was very lucky to play, I suppose, in a pretty special time in Australian cricket. I sort of got in the squad in first class cricket in the late eighties and then started playing in early nineties. So, sort of saw the turnaround of Australian cricket when they won the '87 World Cup, '89 Ashes, and I sort of got involved. Then I was the first young player with Bruce Reid and Geoff Marsh and David Boon and Allan Border, etc. They sort of made me feel welcome, even if, not many other teams, you would be smashed all over the park against India, against Ravi Shastri -- which he keeps reminding me all the time -- Thanks Rav!
Then we sort of got a squad together where a few guys retired but we got some good people. McGrath came a couple years later and few more... all the names that came in. But that's sort of mid period from '94-'95 to 2005-06. Around that time, a ten-year period, we played everybody home and away, which was a pretty amazing achievement, and I was pretty lucky to play in a good era of Australian cricket.
But, then, you know to achieve what we did in the first year with the Royals, I think all of Rajasthan would be pretty proud of. I think the squad we had and the players we had, compared to everybody else, and then to go off and win it was... as captain and coach of that, I had the faith the of owners to put me as captain-coach, and sort of create an environment which is how we always thought cricket should be played and I suppose it was justified in a certain way because we won it.
And we actually got the same spirit in the group this year, but now we have got a tough finish to go.
Photograph: Getty Images
Image: Shane Warne
'It took me a while to understand Indian culture'
The one thing that strikes us about the Royals, I have been very lucky to follow the IPL over the years, is that the Royals as a team man-to-man should not have made a single semi-final. And yet they have consistently punched above their weight, they have surprised people, people who didn't have great records in the Ranji Trophy suddenly play for the Royals and they play like bigger than we have seen them. What is the secret to make the players punch above their weight?
I think you got to be better planned than everybody else. You have to have better tactics and you have to actually make these guys believe it's the right tactic.
But then, easily said. How do you get them to do it? I am imagining, I am [Ashok] Menaria, I am 19 years old, I am bowling to [Sachin] Tendulkar. My captain who has been a legend of the game tells me 'Listen you can do it!' So he has done his job, but how do you get him to believe.
You ask him the question -- in that situation how would you get him out? And he will say he will hit one up in the air. I will say no, no let's work on how we can get him out. So we try to work it out and think of plans where is he going to try and hit me, all those sort of things. So we try to come up with something like that. We got to get the players to buy in and believe it. If I don't believe a guy then we have got no chance.
So once you sort of convince them that that's the right tactics... we talk about and speak about it. Right, if we do this he will hit me over mid-off, he might hit it off for six, but he might miss it. So it's little things like that to make them to believe.
So it is not just a leader saying 'do it this way'.
No, not at all, and I think that is very important. I think it took me a while to understand Indian culture and the way they think. I wasn't into sitting with these guys for lunch and dinner and talking to them all the time to understand the way they think. So that actually helped me get them to believe what we were doing was right.
A lot of these boys wouldn't know English too well, definitely wouldn't know Australianism.
It has also been a few times when, I remember a couple of times with Kamran Khan; we had to put Munaf Patel next to him at mid-on. Because in 20-20, like all teams do, you have set players for certain deliveries and when you bowl a slower ball, thirdman, fine leg come up all those types of things.
So a couple of times I would say to Kamran, what are you bowling? Bouncer? He will say yes sir. I would say, you are going to bowl a slower ball outside off-stump so I would the set the field, or something... what happened? So it's occasionally that would happen. It's bit of a breakdown in communication. We would have a bit of a laugh over that. I think it is key the whole 'creating an environment' where everyone feels the same and every one feels equal.
I remember a session we had with Siddarth Trivedi... he was bowling and he bowled for half an hour; it was hot. I said think it is enough and you are bowling pretty well. He said normally I bowl the whole session. I said, what for? Don't just do it for the sake of it. He actually had a point. 'I practice on Yorkers or slower balls or bouncers'. I said fine, keep going till you are happy, but don't just do it for the sake of it.
I think early on, in the first year, having those things like that, certainly they gained respect by the way you just communicated and made them feel important. But at the end of the day, it was my call on a few things and a couple them of tough decisions made in the first year. I think I gained the respect of the group pretty quickly and that was really important.
Image: Shane Warne with Sachin Tendulkar
'The environment we created was about having fun'
And those tough decisions... were you going and doing it yourself?
There was one particular decision which I really set the tone for the rest of the series, without trying to give names away or details.
It is really tough to make a squad, to make the final squad and there is always disappointment from players on missing the squad. And we were getting a little bit of pressure from certain people about playing certain players and I said to the owners, who I had only known for ten days... I said look that's fine if you want ex-players in the squad; that's like...
I said book a flight on the quarter-final night, am going home. They said, what do you mean? I said, well I have worked hard to get this squad together and these guys are all here on merit, not because of anything else. I think that's important, because everybody knows one or two players might be in the squad because of certain people I know and those types of things. And I said to the owners that are fine you can make your call, either me or this guy in the squad or these two guys in the squad you put them in and I am out, simple. They said, are you serious? I said, well, I am, yeah!
So I think in the whole group straightaway in that first year I was...
We are all here on merit... that made them feel good straightaway; the way they were treated at training, the environment we created about having fun, enjoyment. No fitness coaches, no big team meetings; it was all about enjoyment and fun and sitting around and talking about the game of cricket. And I think just sitting when you are sitting and talking about cricket, things you just use to pass on that you know.
Is there too little of that?
Because sometimes you have job justification whether it be from sports side. I am not; there is no role. I say there is at the right time. We don't need a support staff of 25 or 10 people to do fitness, to do...
The players are getting good money to play international cricket and the opportunity to play IPL and international cricket. The guys are going to look after themselves and if you keep making people do stuff they sort of rebel against it. They don't like being told, train at this time, go to the gym, we've got a fitness test, all that. No one likes being told to do that.
But it's up to you if you want to do it or not. And different because you sometimes feel, you should better do this, you know. So they are trying hard not to be told to do this.
That's interesting; that's because your style will probably work very well with a driven cricketer. Someone who has got a fantastic personal work ethic but not every player is like that. There would have been players whom you have got to tell, 'Listen! You better do this' or they would never do that.
No, because at the end of the day cricket is a perform-and-play game, and if you don't perform you won't play. So if these guys don't want to go to the gym they won't get stronger. If they don't do fitness, they are going to get tired after a couple of overs and they can't run in the field and run between the wickets -- their performance will suffer and they won't play. So it's up to these guys if they want to do it or not.
And then you are able to find out who the hungry cricketers are and you find out who really is passionate about it.
Image: Rajasthan Royals celebrate winning IPL 2008
'I think everyone can be a match-winner'
One of the boys who played under you said it was the first time ever that he was told he was a match-winner. He said I never knew I was considered a match-winner and Warnie told me if I pick you in my eleven, it is because I believe you can win a game. And he said that was the first day when I walked on to the field, walking about two inches higher.
Yusuf [Pathan] is one of those guys... I think you are talking about Yusuf, aren't you?
Actually you forgot; I think it is about a lesser player, Abhishek.
Ahh! Raut, okay!
I was invited to meet him in London. He said it was a big thing for him to meet in London and he knew my record. He said he knew my record! It has never happened to me in my life before.
But Yusuf is a good example, because he really became the player he was with you and the Royals.
He was. Then there are few guys who can turn games. You need match-winners in your side. You need guys who bowl here and there and bat all the time, bits and pieces. You want guys that can turn the course of a game.
Well this was one of the questions, actually, I wanted to ask you. What do you look for in a player? How do you identify a match-winner? What do you look for in him?
I think everyone can be a match-winner. I think if they are prepared to let every ball they bowl, 24 balls you can bowl at maximum. If you are going to bowl a bouncer, this is the best bouncer I have ever bowled, this is the best slower I have ever bowled, this is going to be the best yorker -- they have got that attitude about it. They just don't bowl and get hit for six, it's 20-20 so I got hit for six. It's more of an attitude thing. You look for attitude in a player straightaway. You look for different things, the little things -- whether they help out other players, whether they throw balls to other players, whether they just do their own thing and worry about anybody else.
You look for their technique. You look for at different scoring opportunities. You look at match-awareness, summing up situations of the game.
If they sum the situation of the game -- like you need a boundary off the last ball or you got to get a single here or bring mid-off up and you can manipulate and hit one down and get mid-off back so that there is an easy single.
If you look at players who can do that sort of things, then you know they think about the game. So, once you know that they think about the game you know they've got half a chance.
Image: Shane Warne
'I love playing with Rahul Dravid'
I know you don't rate John Buchannan very much, I know that you don't; But he said something interesting to me once and he said leadership is about not just knowing the cricketer who takes the field but understanding the whole person. And yet without quite saying it, that's also what you do.
You probably work for it differently, probably approach it differently, but the guy who is playing for you.
Common sense [laughs]
Whatever. Probably, common sense is one way of saying it. But is that what you strive to do as a leader? Understand people?
Look, it is a real difficult one sometimes as captain, because you want to be their friend. I think it is important to be their friend and let them know. Because once you get their friendship and trust, then you can talk direct and be honest with them.
If you are honest and direct to them and you haven't really built up that trust, you can become a dictator. And there is a big difference between being a dictator and friend. It is lot easier accept criticisms from you friend or a decision you may not like of a friend.
But you still need to keep that distance as a captain and let them know that you are in charge.
You know, you are talking a bit like Jack Welch and 'General Electric' and about leadership. And it's amazing how similar what you are saying is. Is it always you as captain or is it consensus or is it a democracy?
We are very lucky that we have had guys like Graeme Smith, Rahul Dravid this year. I love playing with Rahul; I really have admired him as a player for a long time. I knew him pretty well; not really well. And I really enjoyed playing with him this year. He is just such a class act. India have been so lucky that someone...
So I watch him prepare, I watch him talk to the younger players. He has been great to bounce a few ideas off as well. But somehow in T20 the way the field is, it is lot hard to talk to players about 'Hey mate, what do you think?' So you sort of look around and just have to think that sometimes you might have to run halfway through the over and in sort of in a sign language 'Harsha, mate, which one in the next over, what do you think?'
Image: Shane Warne with Shane Watson
'I made poor calls and some poor choices'
Is your captaincy an extension of your bowling?
Probably; it is a good question. I think I have been asked about that.
Proabably is. It shows, I suppose, how I think when I am bowling. And I am not going to get it right all the time, as I said. I am going to make mistakes. But I think it can only be judged over a period of time and over a period of time I would like to think that I have made them in bowling and captaincy and things like that. It has come off more time than it hasn't.
I look at the Royals, Warnie. And I think you could have spent three years thinking what you don't have. Instead, I get the impression and I am looking at it from a distance, you have looked at what you have and that's a big lesson for everybody else that you always look at what you have rather than what you don't.
That's spot on, because you can't change what you have got. It is like the past, you can't change what happened in the past. If I thought about what happened in my past I could be in a straightjacket and padded cell somewhere. But I can't change it so I don't spend any time worrying about it. It's what I would be doing now and in the future.
So, for our guys, it's about just thinking on their feet. Not worrying about we haven't got this, we haven't got that. This is our group, let's come together as quick as we possible can, let's enjoy each other's company, create an environment where we all have some fun and enjoyment. We are going to enjoy when other people get their success and I know I am going to get my turn eventually.
Is there regret that 'Warne the leader of Rajasthan Royals' could have been 'Warne the leader of the Australia'.
No, not at all. I was very lucky to play under a couple of good captains. Allan Border was fantastic when I first started and Mark Taylor was probably the best captain I have played under. His communication, and I thought his tactics...
What do you look for in a firm leader? It is an interesting one. I have always asked you what you look for in a player but what do you look for in a leader when you are the player?
Very similar. I think you look for someone who is going to back you. Someone who says you are the man, we need you. You perform and we will win. Someone who always back you, no matter what. I think their communication, their honesty.
Feeling across was that, maybe, Warne the person, in the eyes of some, came in the way of becoming Warne the captain. The suits in the boardroom said would it be almost embarrassing if we had Warne the person as Warne the captain? Do you think that was true? Does that rankle somewhere that I would have made a great captain of Australia, maybe?
I think the captaincy seems to bring out the best in me. If I didn't get the opportunities then so be it. I think the suits and ties and all stuff, they were probably fair because I have been through a few things. I made poor calls and some poor choices. So they were probably right in the way they were thinking, saying it's too much of a risk, anything could happen in that stage of my life.
I understand that; I don't regret it one bit.
I think, looking back it would have been nice to have the opportunity, but you can't do anything about it . So I don't spend any time, I don't sit and wonder 'I wish had the opportunity'.
It's a great way to live because a lot of people can say that but very few can actually believe in that.
I live it. I don't just say that, that's exactly how it has been.
Image: Shane Warne
'I am going to miss the IPL, that's for sure!'
You have seen as much Indian talent now as anybody can. Are there names that you can look at and say 'wow! you are a good player'.
I saw [Virat] Kohli in the first year and thought there is something about the kid. He could play the short ball well. But there are not too many young cricketers in the world that have played just a couple of games and can play with so much comfort. You have to get into stride first.
There's a lot. I think the one thing for these players that the IPL has done -- to mix with international players, to have the exposure with big crowd.
Menaria, in first game here, I couldn't get his attention. I said at all time you must watch me so that -- can move my hands like this and look like a traffic cop. But I don't want to look like a traffic cop.
Was he starry eyed?
He was like this 'never seen so many people' ... cheerleaders, he was loving it.
I thought he would be like 'Is this really Shane Warne?' Because this is something you must have come across.
I don't see myself like that, so I don't feel like that. It reminds me of some of the younger players have never experienced anything like this, so you got to be a little bit patient with a few in the way they play.
To me, Sharma is one. Rohit Sharma has got all the talent in the world; if he could just get his mind right and get his attitude right. If his one thought was 'I want to become the best cricketer I possibly can'. Every morning he woke up and try and talk to Sachin [Tendulkar] and ask him 'Sir, if I could have lunch or dinner'. I would be hanging out his pocket, 'How do you think about batting How do you approach it in these conditions?' Every minute of the day until Sachin says, 'Mate can I have five minutes break?' Be a pester to him.
And when he is playing, 'Malinga how are you trying to get the batsmen out?' He should do that every morning he gets up, 'How am I going to become the best I can possibly be?'
He could be a match-winner, world beater and one of the best Indian cricketers ever, he has got that much talent.
Well, I could talk to you for ten hours, may be, but thank you very much for this. It is just fascinating listening to your thoughts and, in a sense, I think the game is getting too modern and is losing out on what made the game great. And it is wonderful to hear these thoughts from you. Thank you so much for joining us and I hope India has made an impression on you. Suddenly, I am an Indian and you are Australian. So I hope India has made an impression on you and you can keep coming back to India.
I will be coming back here lot of times. I do enjoy coming here. I am going to miss the IPL; that's for sure! But life goes on. Kids are 14, 12 and 10, I have got some great businesses that is going there and it is 23 years in a row, long enough.
Image: Shane Warne