No fairytale finish for spin legend

Warnes last home match ends in defeat as his team fails to rise to the occasion

It wasn’t the kind of send-off the Rajasthan Royals’ skipper was looking forward to in his last IPL match at Jaipur but the signs were imminent. A crushing nine-wicket loss on Wednesday at the hands of Royal Challengers Bangalore following a thumping by Chennai Super Kings the previous night at their so-called fortress, Sawai Mansingh Stadium, not only ended Royals’ title aspirations but ensured that there won’t be any fairytale finish to Warne’s IPL career.
   
 As the capacity crowd watched in stunned silence, Warne bade his final goodbye to Jaipur. He may still take part in the remaining two matches, but Royals will not be the same without the charismatic captain and coach. After guiding the team to title triumph in the opening year, transforming an unknown bunch of Indian cricketers into an all-conquering unit, the Aussie legend couldn’t replicate the feat in the subsequent editions but he always remained an undisputed leader of the team.

It was amazing to see Warne get such diverse set of people, especially in the first edition of the event, bond so well under him despite the obvious communication barriers. He adopted some unique ways of coaching, gave players some strange names to have easy interactions but more significantly instilled match-winning confidence in each player. If Yusuf Pathan and Ravindra Jadeja became household names under his inspirational guidance, Australia rediscovered once injury-prone all-rounder Shane Watson.   
  
“It’s going to be very difficult to replace a great man like Shane Warne,” said Watson after Wednesday’s defeat that put paid to Royals’ aspirations of a second shot at the T20 crown. Without Warne, Watson felt, it’s going to be a lot different in the Rajasthan set-up. “I suppose it’s going to provide a different feel to the group next year. It’s going to be a different team dynamic by not having Shane with us the next year,” he pointed out.

Ever the chirpy character, Warne appeared a bit jaded during the clash against Challengers. “I think Warnie was as normal as he always is,” said Watson. “I think he is always going to be competitive and he is always trying to take wickets...He is a very proud guy and it’s obviously really hurting that we haven’t performed up to expectations, especially in the last couple of games. We knew as a team we needed to really try and pull something special tonight to make these last three games special for him. We just want to do well in the last two games and send off a great leader with some wins under our belt,” he observed.

Named the player of the maiden season, Watson’s indifferent form had a big impact on Royals’ dwindling stocks. “I am the first one to put my hand up and say that I haven’t scored enough runs to set a big platform for our team,” he said in a candid admission.

“I have been rocking my brain to try and find out what’s been going on (with my game). Coming to the IPL, I was very excited with my game after batting the way I did in Bangladesh. But T20 cricket can be a bit fickle at times. I have been extremely disappointed with my performance throughout this IPL. I set very high standards for myself, I have prepared the same way I have in the last couple of years but unfortunately it hasn’t been shown in the performances,” he explained while expressing his willingness to take over reins from Warne.

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