Thursday, March 27, 2008

Warne retires from first-class cricket

Shane Warne: 'This was not an easy decision to make'...

Shane Warne has announced his retirement from first-class cricket while ending his eight-year association with county side Hampshire. Warne, 38, had been a regular with Hampshire since 2000 and captained them since 2004. Dimitri Mascarenhas will succeed Warne as captain.

Both sides reached a mutual agreement after prolonged discussions between the player and Rod Bransgrove, the Hampshire chairman. Warne's diverse business interests, his participation in the Indian Premier League (IPL) - where he has been named captain-cum-coach of the Rajasthan Royals - and his need to spend time with his children in Australia meant he would not be able to commit time to Hampshire over the coming seasons.

"This was not an easy decision to make," Warne said. "But due to some exciting business opportunities, I had to make this call. My eight years with Hampshire have been a wonderful experience, memories that will last with me forever, and likewise the friendships that have been formed at the club.

"Unfortunately I am retiring from all first-class cricket but will participate in the IPL with the Jaipur franchise as captain and coach. Good luck to all involved at the Rose Bowl. I wish you all the best." Warne will be joined in the Rajasthan Royals by Hampshire players Mascarenhas, one of his best friends, and Shane Watson, the Australian allrounder.

"I know this will be a major disappointment to many fans of both Hampshire and Shane but, after much discussion and soul-searching, it has become clear to both of us that Shane can no longer make the commitment required to continue to lead Hampshire," Bransgrove said. "After the commitment and loyalty he has shown to this club over the past few years, I can only wish him all the success and happiness he deserves.

"Hampshire Cricket has been hugely privileged to have enjoyed the unstinting loyalty of this living legend since 2000," Bransgrove said. "The most effective and entertaining bowler of all time, Shane Warne was also a brilliant leader and strategist. As our captain, his influence was instrumental in the development of Hampshire into one of the country's top sides and he enriched the game wherever he played."

Warne made his debut for Hampshire in 2000, and took 276 first-class wickets at an average of 25.59, besides scoring 2040 runs.

He had retired as Test's cricket leading wicket-taker after the Ashes early last year, and his first-class appearances since then have been for Hampshire during the 2007 season. Although Muttiah Muralitharan surpassed his mark of 708 Test wickets, Warne is undoubtedly one of the game's greats. In 2000, he was named among the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century.

Legspinner will not return to Hampshire