Who writes the scripts for these guys? The question crops up quite frequently when these larger than life characters take a hand in shaping events. And there is none bigger than Shane Warne, the man they call "Hollywood" who has been shining through the IPL glitz like a beacon.
It is amazing that the bargain basement team Rajasthan Royals should be heading the table well into the second-half of the preliminary league. Ridiculed as the cheapest of the franchises, said to be a bit of a steal at $67 million, and fined for not using the full salary cap of $5 million at the auction, the team from the Pink City has painted the competition red.
It is typical of Warne's luck that he and his teammates should be holidaying in Goa when all hell broke loose in Jaipur in the wake of terrorist blasts. This is not the first time that the cricket rebel who would rather have been a beach bum has had people wondering how he manages to come through every event and incident unscathed.
Down at the franchise, Warne has been ruling the roost, leading and coaching his teammates to play beyond themselves. His coaching classes are said to be like sermons, or self-improvement courses. While "Guru Warne" is said to lord it over the meetings, he has also been known to wrap his arms around the shoulders of the least fancied cricketer and inspired him into making a contribution.
The skipper has given Salunkhe a run even though two leg spinners in the playing XI must be the biggest luxury ever in the history of Twenty-20 cricket. He promoted the Goan opener Asnodkar and showed the world why the little guy is being called "Kalu" after the hard-hitting Sri Lankan opener Romesh Kaluwitharana who used to blaze away at the new ball in the company of Sanath Jayasuriya.
Warne has found a match winner in Shane Watson who was picked up for the paltry sum of $1,25,000. The all-rounder who used to break down after just a few overs in international cricket has found a new strength under an understanding skipper. It must help that all T-20 asks for is 20 overs. Watson is so much the batting all-rounder that the format suits him to a T.
In the early days of IPL when batsmen were somewhat conservative, Warne ran through his overs with the skill of an artist mixing colours at the palette. His working over of Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the game against the Chennai Super Kings was sheer genius, the top spinner, the leg break and the slider proving a perplexing combination for a crease-tied batsman known for bat speed from virtually static positions.
When emboldened with greater exposure to IPL, batsmen were bold enough to strike Warne for 23 runs in an over, a seeming humiliation, which Warne accepted with the realism of a bowler in a batsman's game. He spoke of how well they had bowled 19 of the 20 overs and got on with the job of describing yet another win that the Royals had bestowed on their king.
Never the one to duck an issue just because it is considered diplomatic to do so, Warne got stuck into Ganguly for thrusting a referral on the third umpire. Later, when Sehwag did much the same thing, Warne kept mum because it was explained to him that the Delhi Daredevils' skipper's dilemma had been created by the fact that the referral system had not been working and had subsequently been restored, but with the field umpires not notified of the change.
Warne made it a point to say that it was not the money alone that brought him to the IPL. He could have made more from ICL (reportedly offered $2 million) even though his fee of $450,00 has been doubled at the Rajasthan Royals for his dual role as player-coach.
The tubby Victorian is here on a mission. If there is one thing missing in his CV it is to do with leading a Test team.
The best captain Australia may ever have had in the modern era never had the opportunity to lead in a Test although he had built quite an awesome record as stand-in ODI captain who won 10 of his 11 games.
How many captains, even of strong Australian teams, boast of a 90 per cent success rate? Such a record cannot be based on just luck or the fact that he leads the best team. There's something about Warne.