He (Sanju Samson) is such a quality player, he’s shown that class again in the first game and I hope he has a consistent tournament this year, Warne said
Twelve years have passed since the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League became famous for producing one of the greatest underdog stories in sports.
Despite being written off, the unfancied Rajasthan Royals didn’t lose heart and went on a giant-killing spree to lay their hands on that trophy.
Now 12 years later, the pundits have written off the Royals again.
But Shane Warne – the man who inspired the bunch of unsung heroes to produce moments of magic in 2008 – believes the current squad have what it takes to prove the pundits wrong again.
Warne is now back in the Royals colours as the team mentor and brand ambassador.
During an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, the iconic Australian spinner looked back on that unforgettable 2008 triumph and also gave a glimpse into his vision for the team this season.
What’s it about the Rajasthan Royals that keeps drawing you to them?
I feel like I’ve got a spiritual connection with the Royals. Back in 2008, it was just such a wonderful time and every now and then you connect and get involved with something that is super special and is magic. The squad we had in 2008 produced some magic and lifetime friendships. I love the Royals and have always been a Royals and grateful for the opportunity to be back working with the Royals in this capacity and I hope it continues. I hope there’s always a role for me here at the Royals because I’m passionate and just love Rajasthan Royals very, very much.
Some people say you were the greatest captain Australia never had. You probably proved them right in 2008 when you led the underdogs Rajasthan Royals to IPL victory…
Yeah see, I can’t put my finger on one particular thing or motivation or anything like that, it was just that we all enjoyed each other’s company, all had a lot of fun. Everyone left school a long time ago so don’t treat everyone like they’re at school and tell them what to do. Let them have some fun and I think that was the point in difference we had.
How much of a role did the RR fairy tale win in 2008 play in making IPL what it is today?
I think when you look back at the 2008 IPL, no one really knew what to expect. But anytime you have the underdogs come through, young boys that haven’t played first class cricket then go on and perform the way they did. From some old has-beens like myself, with all the boys together, no one gave us a chance, everyone wrote us off, everyone said what the hell are the Royals doing. To go on and win gave credibility to the IPL and I think everyone loves an underdog story, so the way we won it captured the public’s imagination around the world and I think really gave credibility to the IPL. I should be on some commission from the BCCI for helping out with the Rajasthan Royals winning the first year…hahaha!
As a player you obviously operated at a very different level, being one of the greatest geniuses to play the sport. But as captain, what it is like to lead and inspire players who are not as talented as you?
Yeah we were very lucky with the squad we had. We had a very good mix of experience and youth. I think the team every now and then whether you were in business or sport wherein you all come together and you just click and you all gel together but the added bonus is every now and then there’s this magic in the group and we had it. We delivered our skills at the right time and had a bit of luck on the way and it was just great fun. I think if you make things great fun and people are enjoying what they’re doing then more chance to perform than not.
Sanju Samson (in picture) has been brilliant for RR. Can Sanju’s terrific form play a big role for RR in this IPL?
He is such a quality player, he’s shown that class again in the first game and I hope he has a consistent tournament this year. It’ll be great for us if he has a good season in the IPL this year.
Overall, RR have made a fine start to the tournament. What are the expectations now?
Yeah, you get the feeling that it’s the Royals’ year this year. I think the squad looks great, some great young talent, some experienced players, good variety in the bowling attack, power hitters and manipulators of the ball. Some good players of spin and pace, good combination of left and right-handers. So, I think the squad is there, it’s about them being able to deliver. So if we can deliver our skills and I feel it could be the Royals’ year this year in 2020. Hopefully Ben Stokes would play a part this year, he’s a big loss and our thoughts are with him but you know add Ben Stokes to the team that played the other night and it looks a very, very good side.
They say the pitches here would get slower as the tournament progresses. Having you would be invaluable for RR in terms of guiding their young spinners.
We’re very lucky to have quality spinners in our team, they’re all different but all very effective. They’ve done well so far in difficult ground conditions and I’m looking forward to working with them.
Final question. Steve Smith (in picture), the RR captain, his incredible success in Test cricket despite his unusual technique has been astonishing. Our readers would be curious to know how Shane Warne would have bowled to Steve Smith?
Hopefully the quicks would’ve been able to get him out first before I had to bowl to someone like him. I would’ve just tried to get him to drive me through the covers and nick him off at slip, but yeah I’m glad I’ve retired and don’t have to bowl to him.
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