I am a counsellor so why on earth am I writing about Shane Warne?
Good question. I’m also a massive cricket fan and always have been. I played as a youngster and I was quite good, (check out Wisden 1980!). His death really affected me, and I have spent the time since he died trying to work out why.
Mooro – sublime
The last time I felt the loss of a famous sportsperson so much was when Bobby Moore, the captain of the England World Cup winning football team in 1966, died.
I was a keen footballer as a youngster and always thought of myself as being Bobby Moore when I was playing with my mates in the park. He led and played well in the 1966 final, but his almost absolute perfect game was against Brazil in 1970 in the World Cup.
I have watched that game many times and am always aghast at how exemplary his positional play, passing and tackling were on that sunny day in Mexico.
When he died, I was at the book launch in London when John Cleese and Robin Skinner were launching their book “Families and how to survive them”. Brian Redhead who was hosting the book launch, announced it and I could hardly move because I was so upset.
There was a gasp from the audience as they felt it too. So, I was not alone. For me he represented a time when we seemed to effortless win at football and my childhood of simple pleasures; football in the winter and cricket in the summer.
Anyway, back to Shane.
I watched him play many times in Test matches and for Hampshire and I used to bowl leg spin myself, so I really appreciated his skill.
As an England supporter he was a real pain because whenever he came onto bowl, you were in constant fear of him taking a wicket… and he often did!
He was so good, and he held the same hold over the England supporters as he did the England batsmen. When he did his dance with a cricket stump in the pavilion when Australia won the Ashes in England he really got on my nerves.
When he bowled the “Ball of the century”, he left me as speechless as Mike Gatting was. I always thought it was a bit hard on Gatt because he was an excellent player of spin.
When he shook Kevin Pietersen’s hand as he left the field at the Oval having scored that amazing 150 to draw the game and win the Ashes in 2005, I loved and respected him.
So, he stirred up many conflicting emotions in me. But now after much thought, I know now why his death affected me so much.
Playing without fear
Shane played the game without any fear.
I remember watching him in 2005 bowling against Ashley Giles at Trent Bridge when England were creeping towards victory. Everyone in the ground and listening on the radio or watching on television were in a high state of tension and you could almost say fear.
Speaking personally, I would say it was fear. At that time, I never thought we would ever win the Ashes again and we were so close.
Warne seemed to be the only player in our way and I knew how that contest most often went! In true cricketing style I had got my children to stay in their seats in the garden until the game was over to help us to victory!
An irrational custom employed in cricket dressing rooms throughout the land. As Warne walked back to his mark to bowl the next delivery to a very nervous Ashley Giles the camera went in very close on his face and I was struck by something.
It’s the thing that I admired most about him. He did not have a single trace of fear on his face. In fact, it was quite the opposite, he was actually enjoying it, relishing every moment and playing completely without fear. He seems to be the only one involved who wasn’t afraid.
Ian Botham had this quality as well. In 1981 at Headingly by his own admission he played without fear because everyone thought that England’s chances of winning were zero. I love his demeanour in that game too. There was a lovely moment when he and the late Graham Dilley met in the middle of the wicket in between overs and just started laughing. Brilliant moment.
Dilley batted well in that game too, but his efforts were overshadowed by the Herculean efforts of ‘Beefy’.
Fear plays a big part in a lot of our lives and to some extent, it’s a very important emotion.
It helps us to often make sensible decisions, to do the right thing and not to take unnecessary risks. But overwhelming fear can be restrictive and oppressive and stop us from really relishing and enjoying our lives in the moment.
Fear of loving, fear of being loved, fear of failure, fear of success and a fear of appearing vulnerable to name but a few.
It is counterintuitive
Everybody is different when it comes to dealing with fear. Personally and professionally, I think I’ve learnt that it’s a very counterintuitive thing.
Our instinct is always to move away or run away from our fears and not confront them, but this can sometimes just make them grow. Fear seems to feed off the silence in a way.
It is completely counterintuitive, I know, but if you can get closer to your fears or at least stand your ground to them, then sometimes they can reduce.
It is not always good to do it on your own because the feelings can be overwhelming, but with the right person, friend or therapist, it can help to reduce your fears.
I think that’s what I learned from Shane Warne and that’s what I will always remember when I look at him and recall that day at Trent Bridge, his face, fearless and relishing every moment of the contest.
Thanks Shane. What a player.