MELBOURNE, Australia, November 8 – Spin legend Shane Warne said Tuesday he was still a match-winner as he announced his return to cricket, confirming he will play in Australia’s new Twenty20 Big Bash League with the Melbourne Stars.
The 42-year-old had apparently ended his stellar cricket career at the Indian Premier League in May, but said recently he had never felt fitter and speculation was rife he would return to the Twenty20 format.
In confirming he had signed with the Melbourne team, the leg spinner said he still had confidence in the abilities which had made him a superstar.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I could be pulling my weight, being able to go out there and change the course of a game,” Warne told reporters.
“It has got nothing to do with money. If it was something to do with money, I would be still playing in the IPL.”
Warne hasn’t played Test cricket since helping Australia to a 5-0 Ashes whitewash over England in January 2007 but he led the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL) until earlier this year.
He said part of his desire to return was that he wanted his three children to be able to see him at work and it was an “added bonus” his fiancee Liz Hurley would be there too.
“My kids who are 14, 12 and 10 can’t really remember dad playing cricket that much,” he told a press conference at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
“For my kids and Elizabeth to come out and see me playing cricket here at the MCG will be pretty special.”
The flamboyant personality has also undergone a dramatic weight drop in recent months, shedding about 12 kilograms since dating Hurley, and said he was confident he could handle the workload.
“I’m in such good shape at the moment,” Warne told reporters.
“I wouldn’t be going into this and playing all nine games hopefully (including a semi-final and final) without a sense of confidence in my ability that I can actually go out there and make a difference.”
The leg spinner said he was injury-free and he did not rule out possibly extending his contract with the Melbourne side if the 2011-2012 season went well.
“I’m a young 42 at the moment, so I’ll see how it goes this year,” he said.
“This is something fresh, this is something new and we’re all learning straight away. Let’s see how it goes this year and we’ll take it from there.”
Rated one of five cricketers of the 20th century by Wisden, Warne will play his first game in the revamped Twenty20 competition against the Sydney Thunder at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 17.
Cricket Australia has said the former Test world record-holder’s participation in the domestic Twenty20 league would be a shot in the arm for the new competition which replaces a state-based tournament.
Several overseas players have signed up with the eight franchises that will contest the BBL, including South Africa’s Herschelle Gibbs, Paul Collingwood of England, and Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi.