AUSTRALIA cricket great Shane Warne thinks it’s a shame his Rajasthan Royals won’t get a chance to defend their Indian Premier League title on home soil.
A year after retiring from international cricket, Warne was captain and coach of the Jaipur-based Royals franchise that won the inaugural IPL, a Twenty20 tournament that attracts the world’s leading players on lucrative contracts and is run by the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
The 2009 IPL season was shifted to South Africa and delayed a week because the tournament dates – originally April 10-May 24 – clashed with general elections in India, causing concerns that security forces would be too stretched to adequately cover matches and polling booths.
“To win it on the last ball last year as the underdogs, having been thrashed in our first game, was pretty special in front of 80 000 people,” Warne told reporters yesterday at a publicity event for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix.
“It won’t be the same as it being in India, but hopefully the South African public will get behind it and turn up to the ground and make it a great spectacle.”
Warne said much of the planning for the season had to be quickly overhauled, with the eight-team league now playing in unfamiliar territory.
“We’ve done three months of planning about itineraries and practice matches and all sorts of things. We were all set to go,” Warne said.
“We started planning for England over the weekend and now we’re planning for South Africa as of yesterday.”
Warne said the Rajasthan Royals would play some practice matches in Cape Town to get familiar with the conditions.
And while he doubted the sheer number of fans that the first IPL season attracted in India, Warne was anticipating good support in South Africa.
“South Africans love sport, they’re very passionate about their sport. Hopefully they get some good crowds,” he said. But, “It’ll be nothing like if it was in India, and it’s a shame it can’t be in India.”
The 39-year-old Warne, who was the leading all-time bowler in test cricket when he retired in 2007, said security was paramount and the players and staff would just have to deal with the tournament’s decision to move, confirmed by IPL commissioner Lalit Modi earlier this week.
“Its just difficult,” he said. “It’s out of our hands. It’s up to Lalit Modi and all of his team to decide what to do.
“It is a shame we’re not in India, it would have been nice to be there.” – Sapa/AP.