| WARNE: Fitter and maturer
Melbourne: Shane Warne, cricket’s most successful spin bowler and a hero to millions of Australia fans, used to boast of living on a diet of pizza, baked beans and beer. But times have changed.
This week, Warne launched a wine collection to which he has lent his name and admitted that, at the age of 33, he was growing up.
“The diet that I have been on for most of my life has been pizzas (and) beer,” Warne said in Melbourne at the launch of his new wine collection on Tuesday.
“So that has changed a little bit now. Over the last couple of years I’ve been strict with my diet, my fitness regime, learning about business off the field, taxation laws.
“All these things I have never really worried about I am actually taking a bit of interest in now and the other thing has been the wine.”
While on tour in India in 1998, Warne had nearly 2,000 cans of baked beans and spaghetti sent over from Australia in an emergency delivery because of his dislike of the local curries.
The arrival of the shipment meant he could broaden his diet on tour from breakfast cereal and Vegemite sandwiches.
But Warne said he had decided ahead of last year’s Ashes tour that he needed to be in peak physical condition for the busy schedule over the next two or three years.
“With my diet, I’ve switched beer for wine and added a bit of lettuce in my sandwich which I used to soak with butter and cheese,” he said.
“I’m 33 now, I’m no longer 25 and I have got some different interests. When I look in the mirror and I see 10 chins from the beer, I don’t miss the beer. I’m as fit as I’ve ever been.”
Warne, a promising Australian Rules footballer from outer suburban Melbourne who discovered in his teens he had a freakish ability to bowl leg-breaks, has taken 477 wickets and is poised to overtake former West Indies paceman Courtney Walsh’s world record of 519 in the next year.
He has overcome several injuries in recent years and a new fitness regime has stripped some 14 kilograms from the man named in 2000 as one of Wisden’sfive cricketers of the century.
Warne’s career has not been without controversy, most notably his admission that he once took money from a bookmaker in Sri Lanka in 1994 and more recently when he was stripped of the vice-captaincy for a lewd telephone conversation with an English nurse that made the newspapers.
He has also been troubled by shoulder surgery, knee and finger injuries.
At Tuesday’s wine launch in Melbourne, Warne sported black pin-striped trousers, a black shirt, shiny black shoes, a sun tan, a gold chain and spiky bottle-blond hair and said he was confidently looking ahead.
“It’s the first time for a long time probably that I’ve enjoyed being Shane Warne.
“I think I’ve probably matured a little bit. Over the last 12 to 18 months I’ve sort of become pretty disciplined in my life,” Warne said. “As you get through the ages of growing up, you start to develop different tastes, different likes in life.”
Warne said he had started to develop a taste for wine over the past few years but added he had not changed as a person.
“I’m not pretending to be a wine buff or anything like that. I’ve always been a bloke who enjoyed a beer,” Warne said. “I am enjoying starting to get a taste for (wine). I’m very proud of what we’ve come up with.”
The Warne white is a chardonnay and the red is a cabernet sauvignon blend, something Warne would have struggled to appreciate at the start of his test career.
Warne made his debut as a 22-year-old in January 1992 against India in Sydney. Just a few days earlier, he had watched the Melbourne Test with a friend, eating pies and drinking beer in the stands.
Warne said his fellow leg-break bowler Stuart MacGill had taken a leading role on tours in helping to teach the finer points of wine appreciation.
“He runs us through courses when we’re on tour. We’ve sent him a bottle and hopefully he gives us good feedback on it as well,” Warne said.
Warne famously celebrated an Ashes victory over England in 1997 with a victory jig on the Trent Bridge balcony as he sprayed champagne in the air.
However this time around, with the cricketing world predicting England will be thrashed, their chief tormentor is refusing to dismiss the old enemy’s chances.
A leg-break bowler with dazzling accuracy and an appetite for intimidating batsmen, the Australian has taken one-quarter of his wickets, 118 of 477, against England.
Feared by England since his remarkable Ashes in 1993 which included the “ball of the century” to dismiss Mike Gatting, Warne is expected to tear through the touring team in the upcoming series which starts in Brisbane on November 7.
Asked on Tuesday how England would feel about facing Warne again, the spinner said: “Hopefully they’re trembling.
“I don’t think they will be. If England come out fighting, it’s going to be an interesting series,” Warne said.
Warne also plans to launch his wines in England, possibly in mid-2003 by which time he could be a world record holder.
“Courtney Walsh’s record is not that far away,” the Australian said.
But he said Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralidharan, who boasts 430 wickets in 76 matches, would eventually claim the record.
“He’ll probably take 800 to a thousand wickets, I would have thought,” Warne said of the 30-year-old Muralidharan.