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March 8, 1999


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Who wants to tell Warne he's dropped?

Dean Jones

The Australian international season has just finished, with Australia again being very successful on and off the field.

It proved itself to still be the No 1 Test team in the world and, with its recent one day form, they are entitled to feel they should be equal favourites alongside South Africa for the World Cup.

But it did not come without a cost, because there were huge problems throughout the season. These problems being the Warne and Waugh bookie affair, the sudden resignation of Mark Taylor as captain, the controversial tour by Sri Lanka, the Ricky Ponting incident at yet another nightclub and the selection of the new Australian captain.

But just when the ACB officials and the Aussie fans thought it was safe to walk the streets again, a bigger problem has arisen.

The problem is the sudden emergence of Stuart MacGill. You might say this is not a problem to have two fantastic leg spinners in your team, but there will come a time when the wicket won't suit this bowling line up. So whom would you choose? Warne with his on- and off-field problems, or would you look at the redhot MacGill, who is in irrepressible form? What a dilemma!

So what is wrong with Shane Warne? The answer is that when you have the greatest spin bowler in the history of the game, you tend to use him at times a bit too much. which of course lead to a shoulder injury. Before this shoulder injury, Warne had all the artillery a leggie needs to become a great. A prodigious leg spinner, a top spinner, the zooter, a wrong 'un and of course the most lethal of all weapons - the flipper. With his huge workload, unfortunately, the rotator cuff in his right shoulder needed a complete reconstruction.

But since the operation, Warne's form has been average compared to the high standards he has set throughout his brilliant career. The off field dramas consequent on his association with an Indian bookie, and the extra baggage attached with it, hasn't helped. He has given up smoking, no more cigarettes will be seen between his lips -- but this has meant more food intake, and his body has seen better days.

He was disappointed to miss out on the Australian captaincy after his fantastic efforts as proxy captain during the World Series. And what a breath of fresh air he was to the one-day series -- aggressive field placements, coupled with the use of pinch hitters, lots of enthusiasm thrown in, it all created the correct formula for a successful series. The fact that his wife Simone has become pregnant with their second child has led Warne to be a touch distracted for a while, though.

The wickets just have not come as quickly as he has hoped. They don't read that well, his figures: 15 wickets at 63.10 a piece in first class cricket. His accuracy is not there, the great control that go with his subtle variations is lacking, and simply put, he is struggling.

In contrast, MacGill has arrived with fantastic success. With 47 Test wickets at 21.78 apiece in 8 Tests, he has shown everyone that something special has arrived on the scene. And to back up those statistics, MacGill has taken 53 wickets at 16.10 a piece in first class cricket since Warne's comeback. He is such a fantastic bowler, with all the toys. But the major reason for his success is that he has great control with his flight and pace, and also has a deadly wrong 'un that not even the best batsmen in the world are finding it easy to pick.

So there will be a time when only one spinner will be required, and what a decision that is going to be! Who would you leave out?

At the moment that decision is in Warne's hands. Every time an Australian team tours, the selection responsibilities rest in the hands of the coach, the captain and the vice captain -- and the last named is Warne himself. So if you were in Warne's shoes, would you drop yourself?

The problem here is with our selection system. The correct system should mean a panel comprising coach, captain and a rostered selector from home.

The problem of choice -- Warne, or MacGill? -- is a big one for the ACB. One is a sports marketers' dream, the other is trying to emulate his mentor.

In my opinion, the answer is simple. MacGill is streets ahead of Warne at the moment if not suburbs! Don't get me wrong, Warne is not finished, and he will get back to his normal best, but it takes time to get used to a new shoulder and time is what he hasn't got. I would even suspect that if you had to leave it to a vote within the team the majority would favour MacGill.

Well, if you think that is a big problem, then think about the poor old soul that has the job of telling Warne that he has been dropped from the team. That, my friends, would be the worst job in Australian cricket. Who would like to be a selector in these given times, with so much money involved in the game, and only the poor old selector doing it for the love of the job!

Dean Jones, star of Australia's successful 1987 World Cup campaign, will write a regular column for Rediff's World Cup site.

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