Shane Warne’s astonishing bake of a litany of Australian Test cricketers has seen a response, with captain Tim Paine among a number of prominent names to fire back at the Australian legend.
Warne caused a stir with a brutal verdict on the Test team ahead of this summer’s Ashses series, describing Paine’s captaincy as ‘tactically very poor’ and going hard at a number of other established Test stars.
“Our fast bowlers – Pat Cummins looks short of a gallop and we know he’s going to come good because he’s world class. But (Mitchell) Starc’s nowhere,” Warne said.
“But apart from that, we’ve got (David) Warner not making a run. Who’s he going to open with?
“Paine, he’s had a shocker the last couple of years as captain, tactically he’s been very poor, lost the last two series and can’t make a run.
“Our side’s not that great, this ‘almighty Australia’.”
Speaking on his show ‘Jack and Painey’ with AFL star Jack Riewoldt on SEN Hobart, Paine chose to respond to the barbs with diplomacy.
“I’m going to let it go, Jack, to be honest. I will bite my tongue, I’ve got some things I need to concentrate on first,” Paine said.
“‘Warnie’ is obviously very opinionated, and he’s happy to give his opinion. His job is to critique us.
“I’ve worked in commentary in cricket, worked on the radio with you guys, and at times you have to give an opinion that people don’t like and might not necessarily agree with. End of the day, that’s his opinion and we’ll let him have it for now.”
Paine did cede some ground to Warne, admitting to the Test team’s lack of form. He put it simply down to a lack of opportunities for players to get back into form on the biggest stage.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Australia’s four-Test series against India last summer, which was shockingly lost 2-1, are the only Tests the men’s team has played. Tours of Bangladesh and South Africa have been cancelled in the interim, leaving the Aussies with precious little five-day preparation heading into this summer.
“We’re not hiding from the fact that we haven’t played our best Test cricket… particularly last summer,” Paine said.
“We’ve had very, very little Test cricket, so yeah, there are some guys that are struggling for some continuity and some consistency.
“Jack, if you played four games of footy in 12 months, you’re not always going to be at your absolute best.”
“This team has had some challenges that no other Australian team has had, and we’re fighting our way through them… but we’re not hiding away from that and saying that we are the greatest Australian cricket team, or we’re dominant and we’re playing as well as we would like to.
“We’ve said ourselves that we think we’ve got plenty of improvement left, but we also think that our best cricket is right up there.”
A harsher critic of Warne was former Test fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, particularly in defence of fellow left-armer Mitchell Starc.
???? Mitchell STARC YORKER ????
— Saki (@imSaki_18) October 28, 2021
Johnson, who like Starc was regularly lambasted for loose bowling throughout his career, urged Warne, a regular critic of Starc, of ‘always saying the same thing’ about the tall quick.
“We all know that ‘Warnie’ loves to get his opinion out there – and he’s deserved it, as well,” Johnson told Nine’s Wide World of Sports.
“I guess the frustrating thing from ‘Starcy’s’ point of view is that it’s always ‘Warnie’ saying the same thing.”
Johnson, who took 313 wickets in 73 Tests between 2007 and 2015, has urged Warne to speak directly to Starc about his perceived problems, rather than lashing him solely through the media.
“I don’t know if they’ve even spoken one on one… I just wonder if ‘Warnie’ actually contacts him and has a chat with him about what he thinks, gives him some advice, instead of just saying it in the media for show,” he said.
Starc has taken 255 wickets in his 61-Test career to date, at an excellent average of 27.57. However, he has struggled against India’s much-vaunted batting line-up in their recent tours in 2020-21 and 2018-19, taking 11 wickets at 40.72 in the most recent series and 13 at 34.53 three years ago.
Johnson suggested an issue plaguing Starc could be one he faced himself – the unusual line a left-arm fast bowler creates from over the wicket, and the opportunities it creates for the best batters.
“He’s had a bit of a problem with swinging the ball – the ball swings and then it stops swinging and your line is just off as a left-armer,” he said.
“We have to be so tight. When you’re bowling to a right-hander, if you pitch it outside off stump, say a fourth-stump line, and it stops swinging, you’ve got to be onto that pretty quickly, because the angle makes it pretty easy for a batsman to hit that through cover or point or run it down to third man.
“He’d be working on it.”
No stranger to dealing with criticism himself – or in dismantling England on Australian shores – Johnson says the serve could be just the tonic for Starc to rediscover his fearsome best.
“I think this will actually fire up ‘Starcy’ again,” Johnson said.
“I think he quite enjoys ‘Warnie’ having a bit of a dip at him. Whether or not ‘Warnie’ has actually caught onto this or not, where he actually knows he’s going to fire him up and get him going alright.
“Sometimes it takes a bit of a wake-up call or someone to say something like that.”