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Warne must be wary of injury, says Benaud

March 10, 2004 17:20 IST

Former Australia captain Richie Benaud is more interested in the fitness of Shane Warne after his enforced year off than the leg spinner's five-wicket haul on his Test return.

"The only thing I've been interested in every time I've seen Shane Warne bowl since he's come back is has he got through that particular day without injury," said Benaud in an interview at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday.

"It's very important after coming back from a lay-off like that, that he is free of injury. He seems to be free of injury and bowling okay," the former Australia leg spinner added.

"Anybody who is out for that length of time, there is nothing like match practice. This, in a sense, is his first real match practice. He will improve from now."

Playing in his first Test since returning from a doping ban last month, Warne took five for 116 as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 381 on Wednesday in reply to Australia's first innings total of 220 at Galle.

It took Warne's tally to 496 wickets in his 108th Test, second only to former West Indies fast bowler Courtney Walsh's 519.

Sri Lanka off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, however, has 491 wickets in his 86th match after the 31-year-old took six for 59 in Australia's first innings of the first test in Sri Lanka.


The race to pass Walsh's world mark has intensified since Warne flew home from last year's World Cup without playing a match because of a positive drug test for a banned diuretic.

"It depends entirely on how long everyone plays," Benaud said of the duel between Warne and Muralitharan.

"If you have someone who plays for another five or six years, probably that person will finish up as the greatest wicket-taker.

"It's difficult to know how long Shane can play on," the highly respected television commentator added, pointing out Warne's previous shoulder problems.

Warne, 34, was rushed back into Australia's Test side after just one domestic four-day match for Victoria and a three-day tour game against a Sri Lanka President's XI.

"I think that Warne is the greatest spin bowler the world has ever seen," Benaud said of the player ranked by Wisden as one of the five cricketers of the 20th century.

"I love watching spin bowlers of all kinds. Murali, you can't say he's an orthodox bowler, but he's an off spinner, as distinct from an over-the-wrist spinner.

"If I had my choice, I would watch over-the-wrist spinners, but that's purely a selfish, personal choice," the 73-year-old added.

Benaud took 248 wickets at an average of 27.03 in 63 Tests and retired 40 years ago as Australia's leading wicket-taker.

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