New Shane Warne documentary reminds us of the characters Test cricket has lost

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As England and Australia stagger, joyless, through the meaningless leftovers of their Ashes series, a documentary arrives full of the passion, drama, mischief and fun so demonstrably lacking from Test cricket as played in January 2022. The film is Shane, a feature-length biopic of SK Warne, which is released on digital download on Monday.

Like the life of the player himself, an enormous amount has been packed in; and the list of interviewees is near-exhaustive. From fellow Ashes titans such as Lord Botham and Allan Border, to celebrity chums like Ed Sheeran, to his brother, ex-wife and children, there are telling contributions throughout. The timeline of larrikin to legend, with various colourful hiccups along the way, is well-known, but is freshened by excellent anecdotes from the man himself.

As was so apparent when he stood at his bowling mark, Warne is a born showman, his intelligence and theatrics deployed to fine effect in tales about sledging Sourav Ganguly into giving away his wicket, about what he said to Salim Malik when the then-Pakistan captain offered him $200,000 to chuck a game, about meeting his “Mr Miyagi” Terry Jenner, about the hypocrisy of the Australian Cricket Academy when they claimed him as one of their own once he had made it big, but not when he was a struggler. 

One less familiar, to this writer anyway: he had both his legs broken in the playground when he was six, and had to claw and haul himself around on a trolley that his dad made for six months; to this he attributes his powerful hands and wrists and, one might infer, some of his iron will and refusal to be dominated.

He is a gripping raconteur, spellbinding when talking about his favourite subjects: Warnie, bowling, and Warnie bowling. His commentary box work, particularly in his home country, is so much less enjoyable, the worst sort of banter-y BS; perhaps he knows, and he wouldn’t be wrong, that the people playing at the moment are almost never as watchable as he was himself.

It would be a mischaracterisation to portray him as a thoughtful person, but there are moments of introspection here and of loss, stories that deepen his own self assessment beyond “I liked loud music, I smoked, I drank, and I bowled a bit of leg spin. I don’t have any regrets.” He talks about his wife leaving him in 2005, and how he would come back from playing in the unforgettable Test series and sit alone in his room, drinking the minibar dry and crying on the floor. He says that from 1993-1996, everything he touched turned to gold; but then, as per Newton, an equal and opposite period of professional failure, injury, bookies, diuretics, bans and other disasters.

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