THE Australian Cricket Board appears to have finally awoken to the fact that the vice-captain of the national team is a serious liability. And it took a fairly seamy episode for the venerable gentlemen who occupy positions at this august body to come to their senses.
The details of Shane Warne's dirty talk with a British nurse have been documented. The Australian vice-captain has tried to pass it off as some kind of normal occurrence but the truth is that it is not; he seems unwilling to acknowledge that there is a price to pay for fame. You cannot hold a position like that and behave like a horny teenager. Or else if you want to do so, then you should ensure that you are not caught at the game.
There are examples aplenty from the past. Going back to the 50s, India's Vijay Manjrekar suffered for allegedly having a woman in his hotel room. (His son has paid some kind of price for this too, but that is a different story). Then there was Ian Botham, who escaped with a reprimand, for his escapades during a tour of the West Indies. Mike Gatting lost the captaincy over his barmaid business and Ricky Ponting's heady mix of women and bar-room brawls ended in suspension. But then Warne clearly thinks he is on a different plane.
Cricketers have been a visible lot and a well-known lot too. In some countries, they are venerated (though I hope that the scales have now begun to fall from many eyes) as Sachin Tendulkar is in India or Brian Lara in Trinidad. In others, they are respected (very few, these days). But as with all sportsmen, they are expected to maintain at least minimum standards of decent behaviour.
This is not the first time Warne has behavedin a manner befitting a lower form of life. He has constantly reminded people that no matter what public station he reaches in life, his breeding is not up to it. There was one incident where he showed people a finger from the balcony at Lord's. He has done that numerous times in Australia. And there are others, too numerous to cite.
There comes a stage in a famous man's life when he often feels that he is beyond the law. A gentleman named Irving Wallace once wrote a book called The Almighty; it deals with a man who organises big newsy events like hijackings in order that he can report them first and get the paper which he owns to sell more than the opposition. Finally, he comes to the point when he feels that he can even change his own fate. The realisation that he is not master of his own destiny comes a weet bit too late to save himself from death in a helicopter crash. His own fame goes to his head, a fairly swollen one at that.
Warne has had a problem with a swollen head for a long time. For a long time, he has been only a shadow of his former self as far as bowling goes. There have been occasional ups but the downs are more frequent. His county stint is slowly turning into a disaster. He is now becoming a support bowler, not the main strike weapon; Glenn McGrath has taken over that role. And when the talented but injury-prone Jason Gillespie returns, there will be two good strike bowlers for Steve Waugh to use.
Once Warne regains a sense of his mortality, I think he will be much the better for it. Of course, it is difficult to drum common sense into the head of a man who is 30. More so, when the head in question is swollen. He has a few years of cricket left in him but that depends largely on how well he performs. It must be borne in mind that after he returned from injury, only his reputation (and maybe a little politicking) has kept him in the team and Stuart MacGill out.
It would be well for Australian cricketers in particular to bear in mind that one of their own, nay the greatest of them all, Sir Don Bradman has gone public with the statement that he would prefer to be remembered for his integrity rather than any of his cricketing feats. That, if nothing else, should help to bring people like Warne to their senses.