As we were about to leave Edgbaston, just two days into the series, Buchanan and Warne walked out from the dressing-room together, looking stern. Buchanan was clearly worried that Warne – who never ducked a question, nor gave a boring answer – would let something private slip to the BBC audience. Neither did he want to let Warne out of his sight, offering a parting shot that he should “stick to the diet”.
As soon as Warne got into the car, he immediately asked the producer to order him a pizza, some chocolate and a can of coke. He proceeded to consume them with great relish during the broadcast, while simultaneously reassuring Theakston on air that he was following all Buchanan’s rules assiduously. Every time he mentioned Buchanan’s name, he waved two fingers in a silent V-sign.
In spiritual terms, Warne was a figure from the amateur age who happened to land in one of the strongest eras of professional cricket. His contemporaries were giants: Curtly Ambrose, Wasim Akram, Allan Donald. On unhelpful pitches, Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara were good enough to smack Warne about, as if he were any normal spinner. Even so, when Wisden came to choose its five cricketers of the 20th Century, Warne stood above them all. He was the only man on the list to be born after 1952.
Much of this comes down to Warne’s natural instinct for showmanship. Like Usain Bolt or Roger Federer, he took visible joy in his own gifts. What’s more, he brought the spontaneity of the village green to the Test arena.