Source : The Times of India, Last updated : 11 Feb 2019,8:56 am

Everyone loves Virat Kohli because he is always honest: Shane Warne -

Everyone loves Virat Kohli because he is always honest: Shane Warne -
MUMBAI: The Indian Premier League's (IPL) 2008 champions Rajasthan Royals are ready with a makeover. The franchise is turning all 'pink' this season with a change in the colour of their apparels and will have it as the official colour in line with the city of Jaipur. As RR goes about reinventing itself in its 10th year of IPL (having missed out two years), Shane Warne - their first captain who led RR to victory in the inaugural year of the IPL - is once again the face driving that change. On Sunday, the legendary leg-spinner sat with TOI for an extensive interview.

Excerpts...

Ten years with Rajasthan Royals. What does it take to have so much of Shane Warne's attention?

I think the people. There's a loyalty factor attached to club sport (cricket) and I like that. I've always only played for one team. Australia, Victoria, St Kilda and Rajasthan Royals (in context of IPL). In County cricket, it was Hampshire. I've had many roles here (at RR) but what really drove me was the people of Jaipur. There wasn't much expectation, they just wanted their team to do well. There was a feeling of appreciation and I felt they took me for who I was. They gave me the space. I want to pay back that loyalty.

You talk about space. When this kind of space is given to Shane Warne, does it tend to bring the best out of him?

Yes, absolutely. Firstly, there's a huge difference between being liked and being respected. I got both in plenty with RR. Today, franchises have a bowling coach, a batting coach, physios, mentors, team managers - there are so many people around the team now doling out advice. In my case, it was a one-stop shop. That helped. Being honest with the players helped. If a player wanted to know why he was in the team, or why he wasn't, all he had to do is come to me and I always kept that door open. All of that resulted in a nice build-up and we could create an amazing team. It's the most satisfying thing I've ever done in cricket - help create everybody's favourite underdog in IPL. And everybody loves an underdog.

Warne


What's been IPL's biggest takeaway? Some other leagues have sprouted across the world and they're doing pretty well for themselves. But IPL continues to be the flagbearer...

There are a couple of things that stand out. Indian cricket has been the biggest benefactor. Go back 11 years, cricketers lacked in confidence, there was an underlying (albeit unnecessary) sense of inferiority. And now, look at them. Training with international players, sharing dressing rooms, sharing knowledge have all contributed so immensely. Today, if India is the Number One team in the world, a lot of credit goes to the IPL for it. Because, it's been a great learning curve. The league added a new dimension to India's first class circuit. What the BCCI has now is something every international team wants to copy. India now are leading the way and the force that the IPL has become has a huge role to play in it. Who would've thought that India would be the world's best fielding unit or who'd have thought India would have the world's best pace attack? In the nets, the Indians were bowling alongside Shaun Tait, Brett Lee, some of the world's best fast bowlers. Practising with them, interacting with them has helped. Simple conversations - be it in the team bus, at dinner, changing room discussions. All those bits have helped. The opportunity that a league like the IPL gives to youngsters is incredible. That has resulted in a huge change in attitude. Positivity has seeped in.

And fans...

Nobody can match the passion of Indian fans. Yes, they love cricket in Australia, England, South Africa, Caribbean. But there's no place in the world like India when it comes to following the game with so much passion. You can't create that kind of energy.

Is IPL doing enough today to keep innovating? Or is it stuck in some sort of a time warp?

There are administrators who've had foresight to make way for a property like this. I'm sure there'll be equally efficient individuals in the future. But if there's a change, it has to be for the better.

Rajasthan Royals and controversies have walked hand in hand - like a couple in love.

I think it hurt everybody. It made people realise that you've to do more to regulate the game. It made people realise that there are things happening in your own backyard and can happen again. So, make sure you have your things in order. I'm happy the way Rajasthan Royals have come back - better and stronger.
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Was the two-year ban a bit harsh?

Yes, I think it was a bit too harsh. Royals have always been treated a bit too harshly and to their misery, they've found themselves on the wrong side of the fence a bit too often. But a few bad eggs in the basket don't define the ecosystem. I'm not sure if all other franchises are treated the same as Royals and I sense a bit of jealousy there.

The ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) chief recently said that a study tells them India is the hub for illegal bookies in cricket. Where's the rocket science in it? It will be because gambling in India is illegal. That didn't make much sense. But apropos of ACU's view, how does one curb this menace?

The government of India is clearly missing a trick here. They should have legalised gambling a long time back. That's the only way you can keep things in perspective. Look, everybody loves a good punt. If you legalise gambling here, just the way it is in other countries, won't it help you figure who does big bets and who doesn't? And the money the government would make, my goodness. If someone wants to gamble, then it doesn't matter whether you legalise it or you don't, they'll still do it. So might as well benefit from it. I think legalising gambling will help. There's nothing wrong with a bet as long as it is tracked properly.

Cricket Australia's culture change - has it worked? Or is it working?

I really don't know if there was a problem with the culture. But what I do know is after Sandpapergate, how many people loved seeing the Australians in trouble and how many people sunk their boot in. How many people kicked them when they were down. There might have been an issue because every team did not like the Australians and that's okay. You don't have to be liked but you need to be respected. And there are a few things the Australian team did (to lose that respect). They need to earn back that respect.

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Signing autographs will help do that?

The Australian way of playing cricket is tough, uncompromising but above all, fair. Maybe that's where the Australians weren't doing it right, pushing it too far and this time (with the culture change policy), they've gone too far the other way. Now I think everything they're doing is for public image. As soon as the last ball is bowled in a game, they're all (players) signing autographs near the fence. Now, people should sign autographs if they want to. I was one of the guys who signed all the time, took pictures and I think all cricketers should. But, there's a time when it should hurt. You may not want to speak to anyone if you've lost. You need your own time to get into the dressing room and get over it. Why would you want them to sign autographs?

Is CA trying to fix something that's not broken?

CA needs to work out what's important to them. I can understand why they're (CA) doing this (read: Trying to improve image in public). But it should happen because they (players) want to (do it), not because they have to. Steve Smith made a huge error in judgement, but Steve Smith is not a bad person. But it is the punishment that has amplified the problem. A 12-month ban? Really? Think about some of the other teams and individuals and what they've done. Let's say a $10m fine could've been levied. He (Smith) made a mistake but I think he has been punished very harshly.

In today's social media scene, opinions are dime a dozen and get inflated pretty easily. So, authorities seem to be under some kind of pressure to be seen as doing the right thing…

I think too many people worry about what people say. It's about being true to yourself and standing for what you believe in - to do the right thing. For instance, the Australian cricket team - they want to play tough, aggressive, uncompromising cricket but it has to be fair. As simple as that. There are too many people in the world, not just cricketers, that get on their phone and create something that isn't real. They try and portray a life that isn't real. That's unnecessary.

For years now, what Australia's done has been the blueprint for others to follow. So, while others have been playing catch-up and trying to match steps, Australia now want to go back from there and start afresh…

For 25-odd years now - probably from the 1980s to, let's say, around 2010-11 - everyone watched what Australia did. How we prepared to how our first class cricket was doing. The same mantle has been taken over by India now. They've created a platform that others are looking up to. I guess that's how it works. Someone is always waiting to take over.

Too much restriction for cricketers - in terms of what they say, do, what and where they speak. Too much rule-setting can result in dumbing down of expression?

We live in a world that's increasingly becoming politically correct. And what we want to see from sportspersons is them being real. We want to see their emotions, see them playing with freedom, expressing themselves. We don't want to see them conforming. For instance, most player interviews these days go like this: Question: Well, that was a fantastic result today. How do you feel? Answer: Well, it was a great team effort. Everybody played well and did their part. I'm just trying my best and happy to contribute to the team - That's what everyone says. Guys have to get more real.

Is that why Virat Kohli comes as a breath of fresh air? Speaks his mind...

He's fantastic. I love watching him bat and I love listening to him. I am a big fan.

One of the things he doesn't do is he doesn't take things lying down...

You know what he does? He stands up for what he believes in. He speaks how he feels and he's real. He's emotional, a bit too emotional sometimes on the field. But that's the part of the charm.

Is that why Australia loves him?

I think world cricket loves him. Everyone loves Virat Kohli because it's refreshing to hear him talk so honestly and openly. He loves confrontation. That's why he has those 100s in chases. How many? 23? 24? It's unbelievable. The next best is how much? I can't remember who's second. That's phenomenal. That's something inbuilt into you. That's not skill or talent. He's got a lot of that. That is just pure competitiveness and pure desire - to get the job done.

Virat's the kind of guy who'll survive at MCG's Bay 13...

You've got to be pretty tough-skinned to survive that. I guess if Virat wants to try that out, that's good.

Lot of comparisons happen these days and they've become fashionable. Is Sachin better than Virat, or is Virat better than Sachin? Is Virat the best ever? You've seen Sachin so closely. Where do you put that in perspective?

Very hard to judge when someone is playing and very hard to judge eras. Think about the bowlers in the 90s. Different surfaces that seamed. Now they're a lot flatter. The ball swung more. So many invariables. But to think that someone was better than Brian Lara and Sachin - in those mid-90s - against Wasim, Waqar etc; Curtly, Courtney, etc; McGrath, Donald, Saqlain, Mushy, Vettori, Murali, myself. You can go on. (Pauses) Virat is breaking all the records, which is great but I want to wait. See, what people miss is this: You can set benchmarks, score those many centuries, average that high, score a lot many runs. But what people are going to remember you for is the way you played the game. Someone should run down the street and ask fans, how many runs did Mark Waugh make or what his average was? They wouldn't have a clue but chances are, here's what they'll say: I loved watching him play. To my mind, what's already evident is that Virat is one of the best players of all time. In one-day team, he probably has to go down with Viv Richards as the greatest ever, not so much for the record but for the way he plays his game. But I'll judge him at the end of his career.
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Shouldn't Australia stop look for the next Shane Warne?

England, for a very long time, were looking for the next Ian Botham. India kept looking for the next Sachin for a long time. Let people be themselves. I think Australia have a very good spinner in Nathan Lyon. He's doing a great job. When people say things like that - looking for the next Warne - what they actually mean is: "We want a character. We want somebody who brings fun to the game, makes it entertaining". I always wanted to do that - be an entertainer.

A bowler like Jasprit Bumrah can be a biomechanic's research work. You've seen him up & close?

I've heard comments like 'he's a freak of nature' which I don't think is the case. He's Bumrah - simple as that. He's got his own style. The same as Glenn McGrath had his own style. I think you can't recreate things that Bumrah does. Things like how fast his arm is, his wrist position, how accurate he can be. I think he's fantastic and he's clearly good with his basics - except that he's good in his own way.

DRS - you're clearly not a fan...

Hang on. I think any improvement to the game that can help us get to the right decision is fine. I don't mind. I'm a fan of DRS only if it is used right. And at the moment, I don't think it is used right. It's simple: Take away the original umpire's decision. You can't have exactly the same ball being given out and not out depending on what the on-field decision was. Identical deliveries: one results in 'out' and the other results in 'not out'. That can't be the case. It's either out or not out, but because of what the on-field decision is, there can't be two alternatives to the same delivery. If I bowl a ball and it hits the guy in front of the stumps, and the umpire says not out. I review and it says: The ball would've gone to hit the stumps. But it says 'umpire's call'. The next ball, I bowl exactly the same one, and the umpire says 'it's out' - that's wrong. The same ball can't be out and not out. The simpler way to do it is 'take away the original decision of the umpire. If its hitting in line and hitting the stumps, it's out - no matter what the umpire says.

So, you're saying only keep the human element in the game or go completely with the technology…

Keep DRS exactly the same. Just remove the umpire's original on-field decision. It doesn't matter what the on-field umpire feels. Let's just see what the DRS says. It's simple. Then you'll never have the same ball being given 'out' and 'not out'.

DRS takes into account that once the ball is pitched on the surface, it tends to get slower. You agree with that?

Probably yes. (Pauses) I think so. (Pauses again).

Can it be applied against the force of nature?

I don't know. I'm sure most deliveries are faster through the air. If it hits the pitch, it has to take off some pace. But if I think of Perth in the late 80s & early 90s, the ball seemed to always gather pace off the pitch. Maybe that was the swiftness from the bounce, I don't know. But you've got to rely on science and they'll have to tell whether that's the case.

Another thing about the DRS is that those who operate it during a match sit in the broadcast room, the TV umpire sits elsewhere, the match-referee sits elsewhere…

The DRS should be on their own, sitting alone, and maybe the fourth umpire should sit with them, to see they're hitting the right button (laughs). But because of the telecast, you get to see all of that on the live feed. So, it's pretty hard for anyone here to make a mistake. But yes, those who operate the DRS should be sitting alone so that you're not influenced by anyone.

What's that one rule you want changed in cricket?

1) Take away the on-field umpire's decision on DRS; 2) If you don't bowl your overs in time, the captain misses two games. (Introduce it). You've got 90 overs in a day, if you miss them, the captain misses the next two games after that one.

What if the game finishes in under-three days, like in the case of West Indies versus England?

Yes, (above should apply) unless the game finishes in less than 225 overs. Five days make way for 450 overs. So, if the match has lasted less than 225 overs, it's okay. But there has to be a clampdown on overrates. The flat rule should be that a team cannot bowl less than 90 overs in a day. If it's a half-day's play we're talking about, do a pro-rata calculation.

Recently, Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul were in news for all the wrong reasons. Not related to cricket of course. A huge controversy erupted. Did you hear about it?

Yes. Good lord. As I said earlier, it's all about political correctness these days. If a player steps out of line, everybody has an opinion and I thought that this particular thing was ridiculous. Just let them be.

Cricketers from the last decade can thank their stars there was no Twitter back then. Imagine the Sourav Ganguly-Greg Chappell saga being played on Twitter. That would've been something. So, this generation doesn't have it so easy...


(Laughs). I agree. But there are advantages of Twitter too. If something is said or written incorrectly, it's a medium that can be used to point things out immediately. It's a good platform to have a voice.


One Australian cricketer you have set high hopes on...


From all forms of cricket I see back in Australia, the one player I really admire is Pat Cummins. I love the way he goes about and he's a great story in the way he's come back from injuries. So, the hard work is paying off.


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