Why Warne’s legacy hasn’t been damaged

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Shane Warne and Elizabeth Hurley. AFP PHOTO/GREG WOOD

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When Shane Warne walked off the Sydney Cricket Ground after his final Test match in January 2007, there wouldn’t have been a spectator in the ground who didn’t realise they were witnessing the exit of one of the greats.

Warne is the best leg-spinner the world has ever seen and is ever likely to see.

The Victorian was the answer to almost every problem the team faced from his emergence as a Test cricketer in 1992 until his exit at the SCG that day.

His exploits with the ball helped fans forget the many off-field incidents, but on that day in Sydney as he waved goodbye, few if any cared about his past.

In fact, each drama only lasted until the next bit of magic was produced with the ball.

His ability to make competent batsmen look like park cricketers was unparalleled and while the good times rolled fans forgave and forgot.

Warne was the ultimate people’s champion. He was the ordinary bloke capable of extraordinary feats on a cricket field, but now the public seems to be turning against him.

Exactly why needs examining. What is so different about the Warne of 2013 to the one who thrilled us all for 15 years?

By his own admission his career was tinged with controversy.

In 1998 he confessed, along with Mark Waugh, to providing pitch and weather details to a bookmaker in 1994.

In 2003, he tested positive to a banned diuretic and was suspended from cricket for a year.

One of the shrewdest tactical minds the game has ever seen was also seen as too big of a risk to be installed as the Australian captain because of several off-field scandals.

Yet, we loved him all the same.

We cheered when he left batsmen befuddled with a ripping leg-spinner. We marvelled as he out-witted another with a wrong-un and flat out confused others with a flipper.

The off-field drama didn’t seem to matter as long as the wickets kept falling.

Now, Warne provides a modest return in the Big Bash League, gets in a stoush with Marlon Samuels and doesn’t put his name down as skipper on a team-sheet and we’re outraged?

Warne’s career survived so many sagas that it seems odd for people to turn against him now.

The exchange with Samuels was a terrible look for the game.

This season, viewers were taken closer to the action than ever before and got a little more than they bargained for.

Is it really the first time a player has let fly with loose lips on the field?

Why are we surprised when Warne does something out of the ordinary in 2013 when it hardly left us stunned a decade ago?

A legacy can only be damaged if behavioural patterns start to change dramatically.

Social media might have given his one million followers on twitter a previously inaccessible insight into the man away from the field but, apart from the loss of a few kilograms, is he really a different person to the one we loved?

He was never going to be shy and insular in retirement because he wasn’t that way during his career.

The magic might’ve stopped or at least got less frequent, but perhaps we have changed while Warne has stayed the same.

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