Shane Warne admitted to a critical sporting weakness last week and acknowledged that until he could master that one part of his game he would never be remembered as even good, let alone great.
The most prolific leg spinner of all time stood forlornly in the company of Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson and Brett Lee when he made his admission of weakness. It was done without excuse nor with the desire of attracting sympathy.
In what was simply a bald statement of fact, Warne spoke the words softly but clearly: “I can’t putt.”
The day after Australia’s defeat to South Africa in the third Test in Durban, eight of the Aussie squad were driven to the Wild Coast to play one of the country’s most exciting golf courses and to have a “punt” on the casino tables that evening. Having shot 84 in his first visit to the course, Warne might have been pretty pleased.
“But I just can’t putt,” lamented Warne. I had two eagle putts and three-stabbed them both. I was missing them from six feet all day. Ricky shot 77 and so should I…but I can’t putt. It drives me mad.”
Yet again it was a pleasure to see the Australian team away from the immediate environs of a cricket tour. Although Polly and the boys can also be wonderful ambassadors for their country, the difference between many of our sports stars and the bloody Aussies finally dawned on me.
Whereas our sportsmen can be polite, accomodating, interesting and even amusing when approached by members of the public, it is the Australian teams that do the approaching. And so it was with Warnie.
His hand was out in greeting at the Wild Coast Sun clubhouse before he even realised that he knew me (from press conferences and interviews).
“Bloody hell, mate, fancy seeing you here! How ya travellin? What a course, fantastic isn’t it?!” His sincerity was pleasant, to say the least. He was even genuinely interested in the answer to a question!
Lee, meanwhile, became the first player in living memory to hit the clubhouse balcony direct with his tee shot on the 18th. For those who have never seen the course, suffice to say the achievement requires a very, very long, very, very violent slice (with a very, very big driver.) I couldn’t ask the fast bowler about it because he was engrossed in a conversation about the history of the Transkei with three locals.
They may be hard-nosed on the field but they certainly know how to behave like better than average human beings off it.
All of which adds to the lustre of being world champions but, sadly, none of which helps Warnie to get the ball in the hole after hitting a 290-metre drive and a five-iron to 20 feet.
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