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'Warne knew how to get the best out of his players'

Last updated on: March 08, 2022 16:18 IST
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'He was keen to win the IPL with the team he had, he had no desire to have big names in his team.'
'He just wanted good players, who he knew he could mould into match-winners.'

IMAGE: Shane Warne, then captain of the Rajasthan Royal. Photograph: BCCI/IPL

Paying rich tribute to Shane Warne, his former Rajasthan Royals teammate Mohammad Kaif believes the cricketing genius was "way ahead of his time".

He credits Warne for being a trailblazer as far as the IPL was concerned with his astute captaincy which saw the Rajasthan Royals win the title in the very first IPL season in 2008.

Kaif, who has taken to coaching after retiring from cricket, says the time spent under Warne at the Royals has been a great learning for him with regards to man management and planning.

Kaif believes Warne might have made a great captain for Australia if he was given the chance.

"He would take on the spot decisions. If the game was drifting away, he would make a plan accordingly," Kaif tells Harish Kotian/ as he fondly remembers the cricket legend who passed away suddenly on Friday in Thailand.

You must have been stunned when you learnt about Warne's passing.

It was very shocking for me. I am still at a loss for words. I still can't get over his untimely death. Totally shocking!

You were of the senior guys at the Rajasthan Royals in the 2008 IPL. He used to consult seniors like you, Graeme Smith, Munaf Patel and others a lot.
How different was Warne's captaincy style because he outfoxed everyone else to win the IPL in the very first season?

He was way ahead of his time.

Compared to the other captains in the first season of the IPL, when we had a lot of Indian legends leading the different IPL teams, he was way ahead in terms of planning, and tactically.

He was the coach, he was the mentor, he was the captain on the field, he was friends to young players like Ravindra Jadeja, Yusuf Pathan and he bonded well with seniors like me and Munaf Patel.

I would say it was because of Warne we won the IPL in 2008. On paper if you compare the Rajasthan Royals squad of 2008, we didn't have big names in our team, we had a very young side including Ravindra Jadeja, Yusuf Pathan among others.

Graeme Smith was the top player and we had a few Pakistan players so people didn't fancy the Rajasthan Royals that season, they believed we wouldn't get too far.

We lost the first three games, but we bounced back quite well from that stage and it was because of Warne's captaincy.

He was a shrewd captain. I remember one incident when we were playing Deccan Chargers in Hyderabad he brought (part-time off-spinner) Yusuf Pathan in the Powerplay. He gave Yusuf the hard new ball. We were all shocked as to what is happening.

But he believed that bowling an off-spinner to (Adam) Gilchrist could be a good strategy. And that move worked as Yusuf got the wicket of Gilchrist.

So Warne was a bit different. Tactically, he was way ahead of the other captains in the first season and that is why we won the IPL title.

How did he inspire the team? Did he speak a lot or have a lot of team meetings?

He was the mentor, the coach, everything. He was a great man to have in the dressing room.

Someone like Jadeja benefitted a lot under Warne. He liked Jadeja so he backed Jadeja a lot. He also backed other players like Swapnil Asnodkar, he gave him the freedom to play his shots in the IPL. Even though Asnodkar was not an international player or a known man, but Warne had that eye where he could pick the right players.

Another key point of his captaincy was that he knew what kind of field to set for a particular player or which bowler should be operating against a particular batter.

I remember the Jaipur outfield was quite big, the boundaries were more than 70 metres. So when the opposition lower order batters came out to bat, he used to tell the bowlers to keep their length short.

He used to keep it back of length and bowl around the chest or helmet height. He knew that the batters in the lower order were not good at playing bouncers so he used to put mid-on and mid-off up in the circle and have fielders at third man, deep square leg and fine leg.

He was quite sure on how we should bowl in the Powerplay, in the middle overs.

Since he had captained an English county team in domestic T20 tournaments ahead of the IPL, he had a bit more exposure, on how to play the new format.

The other captains in the IPL didn't have much exposure to T20 cricket, so Warne had that edge over the other skippers in the first season.

You have been part of the Delhi Capitals coaching staff in recent years. How much did you learn from Warne about man management and planning for matches?

I learnt a lot from him in terms of how to manage players and the tactics part.

I also learnt on how you need to improvise during games, but most importantly the big lesson for me was how to win matches.

To win tournaments you need to have something different, something special, you need things going your way.

Even though Warne had retired from international cricket, he had that desire and ambition to win the IPL.

He was keen to win the IPL with the team he had. He had no desire to have big names in his team and win the IPL. He just wanted good players, who he knew he could mould into match-winners.

I have definitely learnt from him on how to manage teams in shorter formats. Not many in India knew about T20 cricket till then and a lot of people started following Warne's style of leadership after the 2008 IPL.

What sort of a captain was he? Was he calm or was he temperamental?

He was different, his team meetings used to beat the pool side, on the dinner table, or while having breakfast.

Warne didn't have any fixed place or time to have those meetings.

If we were having our nets, he would come and talk to the bowlers and batters.

If you see the trainers and coaches they have those fancy training sessions wherein they place cones and tell players to run around, but Warne didn't believe in all of that.

He didn't want all that, he just used to tell us to undergo a short training session, take a couple of laps and some stretching exercises.

His focus was on the main job -- how to score runs or how to take wickets, how to plan for the matches.

He believed in speaking to the players. He could always be seen talking to the players or the coaches, he was never quiet.

In the 2-3 months that he was here for the IPL, he was always focused on the job without taking a single break.

Was he big into planning for matches as the captain or did he take on the spot decisions?

He would take on the spot decisions. If the game was drifting away, he would make a plan accordingly.

He was very clear in his mind. Warne would have been a great captain for Australia if he had got the chance.

He knew how to get the best out of his players.

He had quite a few all-rounders and he knew when to bring them on during the various stages of the matches, like I said how he used Yusuf Pathan against Gilchrist.

Then we had a leg-spinner in Dinesh Salunkhe, whom he used effectively. We had a medium pacer Siddharth Trivedi, there was Munaf Patel, who was told to bowl a lot of slower balls.

He was not into having big meetings or planning things in details with video analysts and all.

He kept it simple and all his plans depended on the flow of the match. I would say I saw a bit of Warne in Dhoni's captaincy.

Dhoni would also take on the spot decisions and bring on a certain bowler or send someone to bat. It was not pre-decided and he would change his plans depending on the flow of the game.

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