I saw the latest update on Harsha Boggle's blog today. In a piece creaking under the weight of every metaphor he could think of, Boggle has largely mirrored my own feelings about the Rajasthan Royals, their place in the IPL, and about their captain Shane Warne. By leading a rag-tag team of youngsters to within an inch of the playoffs, and winning hearts and minds along the way, Warney has highlighted yet again how much poorer his retirement leaves the real game.
His value to the IPL also is much greater than his stated role as the captain-slash-coach of the Rajasthan Royals. Warne brings a sense of the possible everytime he takes the field and one always feels the lurking miracle behind the next ball to be bowled or the next shot to be played. He elevates the game and the entire tournament with his presence. This year too, although in our hearts we all knew that Rajasthan was a depleted force without Watson and Tanvir, Warne made sure the team would not go down without a fight. He took Munaf Patel and Yusuf Pathan and fashioned them into almost adequate replacements for Watson and Tanvir, and once more tilted at his foes and struck if not fear then uncertainty among them.
Boggle closes his piece by saying he does not think Warney will be back next year. I hope for all of our sakes that is not true. The IPL will lose a lot of its charm if Warney were to retire from it. I know that we Indians never tire of reminding ourselves how Tendulkar gave Warney nightmares, but the IPL has starkly exposed the difference between the two men as leaders, and there Warney is on a different planet from Tendulkar. Warney is miles ahead of even Dhoni as a captain, and I'd say he is far and above the greatest captain in the IPL. Tendulkar could not inspire the likes of Jayasuriya to deliver. Warney looks into the eyes of Kamran Khan or Munaf, and despite the language barrier he inspires them to raise themselves
The Magnificent Seven
Not just Warney but all the other teammates from that great Aussie team participating in the IPL have proven their worth. Gilchrist, Hayden, Lee, Symonds - the Aussies 30+ brigade, have all been invaluable to their teams with crucial contributions. Hayden towers above everyone else as a batsman in this IPL. Gilchrist has been awe inspiring at the top. Symonds has hit out with the bat and looked solid. The other Aussies great, McGrath, has not played, perhaps by design, but has obviously been mentoring the Delhi bowlers who have benefited from his tutoring. Sangwan and Nehra both have looked much more dangerous and Nannes has been a revelation.
I think the time might be ripe for lifting an idea from the IPL - let us have one series of games between a best of 11 of Indians versus a side of the Aussie greats, with Warney as the captain, like Inzy led the Lahore Badshahs so memorably in the ICL. A team with Warney, Haydos, Gilly, Roy, Binga, Pidge, would surely be capable of beating any side in the world in 20-20 cricket. The only other Aussie 30+ I'd like to add in here would be Ricky Ponting, who'd be free to plunder the bowling without the captaincy burden, and this team could beat any comers on any day in T-20 virtually guaranteed. The rest of the team could be made up from Katich, Hodge, Hussey, Warner, Nannes, and Ryan Harris, Andy McDonald, T Henderson etc would be the extras.
A T-20 challenge series between this team and a team of Indian stars or even rest of the world, would be worth a lot of money, especially if played in India (just don't make Tendulkar captain). I bet any real fan of cricket would die for a match featuring this team against a team of say Tendulkar, Ganguly, Kumble, Dravid, Naman Ojha, Asnodkar, Kamran, Tyagi, Sangwan, Saha, Nehra, Salvi, Kulkarni, Ojha, Jakati, Karthik, Parthiv, Mishra, Balaji. Does someone know Modi cuz I have a money making series to suggest.