The years 1992 to 2007, which span the Test career of Shane Warne, were wonderful ones for Australian cricket fans for a variety of reasons.
The chance to watch the revival of the great art of leg spin bowling was one, of course: the sustained success of the Australian team as a whole over that period was another.
But perhaps the greatest pleasure of the years during which Shane Warne was bowling on the world stage was the fact that while he was doing so, he wasn’t giving his opinion on every single subject that arose.
Do you remember those days, cricket lovers? The days when it was actually possible to pick up a newspaper or look at a news site without seeing what Shane Warne thought about absolutely everything?
Young people today must scarcely be able to believe it, but it’s true: there was once a time when a man could become a professional cricketer in Australia without Shane Warne telling the entire world what he thought about him.
Is it too much to call these halcyon days?
I don’t think so.
Of course, things haven’t changed that much. In many ways, the world is the same as it was back in the ’90s. For example, nobody cared what Shane Warne thought about anything back then, and nobody cares what Shane Warne thinks about anything now, either: the only difference is that now we have to hear about it anyway.
I realise, of course, that Warne is an Australian legend, whose long and celebrated playing career means he occupies a particularly lofty position in the sporting pantheon. As such, a certain amount of deference is inevitable, and it’s only natural that from time to time we should be exposed to his views on the modern game.
But it’s the sheer volume of the takes constantly spewing from Warne like lava from a shiny over-tanned volcano that is exhausting. There is no other former great with such an insatiable appetite for shoving his oar in.
We occasionally hear from Steve Waugh, Mark Taylor or Allan Border. For many years, it was an annual tradition for Neil Harvey to emerge from his lair to declare everyone and everything in the current era to be garbage that Don Bradman would never have tolerated. And we accepted Neil’s choleric interjections with goodwill, because as angry and bitter as he seemed, at least he wasn’t doing it every freaking day.
Warne, on the other hand, is addicted to a hectic lifestyle of disgorging his opinions 24/7. If there’s a sports page in Australia without a story about What Warnie Reckons, I’ve not seen it lately.
Shane Wants Paine Out. Shane Wants Inglis In. Shane Backs Cummins. Shane Wants Smith Out. Shane Wants Smith In But Not As Vice-Captain. Shane Wants Marsh In And To Be Vice-Captain. Shane Also Wants Warner To Be Vice-Captain Apparently. Shane Hates Mitchell Starc’s Guts For Reasons We Haven’t Quite Figured Out Yet But We’ll Keep You Updated.
If there is an issue, Shane has something to say about it. If there is an Australian cricketer, Shane can tell you how he rates him. If there is a microphone within a six-kilometre radius, Shane can sniff it out and bark into it.
What’s more, what he’s barking into it will never be worth hearing. You’ll never hear scathing wit or original thought from Warne. Just “he’s grouse” and “he sucks” and “I don’t understand” and “Steve Waugh was the most selfish cricketer I ever played with”.
Of course, it’s not really Shane Warne’s fault. He’s just doing what comes naturally. You can no more blame Warne for ceaselessly flapping his gums than you can blame the larvae of the spider wasp for slowly eating a tarantula alive. You gotta do what you gotta do.
No, it’s our fault. The Australian media, and the Australian public, must bear the blame for the enabling of Australian sport’s biggest and least insightful mouth. We keep listening and we keep reporting and we keep a Shane Warne-shaped hole in the cultural landscape ever-ready for him to fill.
To put it simply, we are addicted to Warnie, and we really need to break that habit. Time to go cold turkey, as the man himself might text to a glamour model he met half an hour ago.
Because when we actually examine what Shane Warne says, and what we get out of it, we might be amazed to discover that… we never really knew why we were listening in the first place.