While my cricketing skills never quite extended to Test level – something selectors at various lower grades have never really been held to account for – I did get a taste of what it must have been like to be a such a player when I travelled with the Australian side for the famous 2005 Ashes tour of England.
I got to see up close the adulation they had to endure from cricket tragics in hotel foyers and pubs here and there, the endless slaps on the back and requests for signatures on sodden beer coasters. They were deadset Gods, for goodness sake. And rightly so.
And they would have been and would had suffered all these things bar for one simple problem of timing; they were but bit players in a dazzling extravaganza being played out around them – and I refer to Warne’s World.
This blazing golden aura that surrounded Shane Keith Warne as he wandered among his mere mortal fellow players; this intense self-emitting light that really should have shown up those around him yet inexplicably kept them in dark and forgotten shadows regardless of their own feats on the playing fields of England.
My closest view of Warne’s World came in the lift at the Royal Gardens Hotel beside Kensington Gardens in London during the first Test at Lord’s.
The burning star of Warne’s World stood in the middle of the lift, where he belonged at the centre of the universe and from where The King of Spin, The Earl of Twirl, was holding court in a burning, blinding light.
Barely discernible in the inexplicable shadows were teammates looking up at Warne like puppies hoping to be thrown a bone – a bon-mot at least – from the great man’s current triumphs and occasional, unfair, trials and tribulations.
Speaking of pups, the one wagging his tail the most was Michael Clarke. You could almost see the love hearts emerging from his shirt front, only to be vaporised as they tried to enter Warne’s World’s atmosphere.
S.K. Warne was banging on about some bespoke gentlemen’s clothing store at the centre of empire that had had the temerity to want him to pay 600 pounds for a jacket or some such thing.
I detected his teammates shaking their heads at the temerity of some sales chap even thinking about charging Warne’s World anything for that piece of apparel; let alone not offering a second jacket also free to give away to one of his underlings.
The Warne’s World monologue continued as the lift descended a half-a-dozen floors with barely audible “tut-tuts” and “shame” from the lesser mortals selected for the tour.
Warne’s World swept from the lift into the plush main foyer and the rest of us got out quickly as all oxygen appeared to have been sucked out of the lift.
Warne’s World, by the way, is not my creation. It was invented by his teammates spellbound by the reach and the majesty of the global phenomenon that was, until sadly yesterday, S.K. Warne.
Warne’s World was what is was. Other players in dressing rooms and pub bars could only listen on as Warne’s World fielded calls from Roger Federer inviting him to the player’s box for the men’s Wimbledon singles final, or Michael Schumacher wanting a catch up for a drink and to apologise for the fact that there was no way his racing car could be modified so that Warne’s World could join him on the circuit at an upcoming grand prix, or someone from Dom Pérignon checking to make sure those crates of their best bubbly had made it safely to Warne’s World’s hotel room, or The Sun asking if those Swedish triplets had turned up, or Kevin Petersen asking for Warne’s World’s bank details if the great man would promise never to bowl him around his legs or to drop a sitter at first slip at The Oval when he had barely got off the mark on his way to a ton.
Okay, maybe I’ve embellished things a bit in that last paragraph. But, trust me, not by much.
But the lift story is repeated as accurately as I can remember things.
It was an absolute privilege in that two-minute trip between the floors at the Royal Gardens Hotel to be in the presence of greatness and to gladly suffer the third-degree burns from the intense rays being emitted from Warne’s World.
And I’m sorry if I can’t remember the other players apart from The Pup who were in the lift that day; they really were inconsequential in the overall scheme of things.