Every person has a distinct 'internet morning routine'; an ordered hierarchy of sites they access when they first log on to the internet in the morning. I'm sure that -- needy, attention-hungry creatures that we are -- we all check our email before any else, but the order thereafter is completely defined by our individual tastes and predilections. As a cricket fan, cricinfo is naturally near the top of that list for me most of the time. (During periods of heavy action in the game, it may even rise up to no. 2.) Since the end of World Cup, however, cricinfo had been hovering nearer double-digits on most mornings, behind various online news sources, political blogs and even offseason NBA rumour sites.
That all changed ten days ago, on Friday the 31st of August, the day of the final installment of Shane Warne's 50 Greatest Cricketers series in the Times. Much has already been written about that list, but it wasn't the content of it that interested me so much (Rob Steen and Tim de Lisle do a fine job of discussing Warne's choices and noteworthy omissions). What intrigued me more was the reaction to the list, from myself and many others. Why should I be so fascinated by some ex-player's stupid subjective list of 'great cricketers'? Would I care as much if, say, Justin Langer released such a list in a newspaper? Of course not, and I doubt he could even find a publication to grant him the print space in a single edition, let alone an entire week's run.
it must be something about Warne that sparks that public fascination. The only
other person I can imagine who would command such attention is Richie Benaud,
and he has earned that status after almost half a century of detached
impartiality and sober, understated analysis. Those are not qualities we'd
normally associate with Shane Warne. In fact, they are the very qualities we'd
expect not to see from Warne. And that
itself might be why we all cared so much about that top-50.
We expect Warne's choices to be inconsistent. And biased. And distorted by personal feelings. We expect him to give us something odd (Mark Taylor is higher than Steve Waugh), something shocking (no VVS Laxman)... even something completely incoherent at times (Darren Berry is in, but Kumar Sangakkara is not? Give me a break). We expect it because we know Warne, and we know the way he has always managed to combine a fine mind for cricket with an ego-driven recklessness and insecurity that force him to act the fool, or say something weird, or get himself in trouble. Just to make sure he has everyone's attention.
In most cases, we would expect the filters of corporate propriety to prevent players from saying what they really want to say. And Warne is no different, for the most part. Except sometimes... when he just can't help it. Fortunately, for all of us, Shane Warne is really, really bad at 'helping it.'