So much has been written about Shane Warne in the context of his upcoming retirement, and I’ve probably read too much of it. As someone who has been bowling leg-spin for a long time (not particularly well, but with great intent), there is another angle to Warne that no-one has picked up.
Warne has made leg-spin sexy. Back in the days of Jim Higgs, did you see little kids practicing leggies? I think not! But Warne bowled with such accuracy and effectiveness, he turned spin bowling back into the attacking art that it is.
In the one-day game, captains might have used an off spinner bowling fast darts to try and hold up an end in the middle overs. But they were most reluctant to throw the ball to a leg spinner for fear of them being blasted to the fence and beyond. Not any more.
His departure will leave the biggest gap in the Australian team. You always have several batsmen, and several fast bowlers, so the pipeline is usually full of up-and-comers who have already been exposed to international cricket. However, you only play one or two spinners. This means that other than McGill (who would be picked in most any other international team), you only have blokes with plenty of potential.
There is no “replacement” (like Clarke for McGrath, or Clark for Martyn). Eventually, a new premier spinner will emerge, but it may take a couple of seasons for that to happen. The big winner may well be Andrew Symonds, with the versatility to be a bit of everything (including an off spinner). His inclusion may give the team additional depth and balance to withstand the recent losses.
Besides the wickets, and the mobile phone, Warne’s legacy will be that he changed the game, and that is the greatest thing any sportsperson can achieve.