Shane Warne on sledging, Sachin and The Shermanator
Esquire: You’re here on behalf of Advanced Hair Studios. Tell me, what is it with loads of cricketers promoting hair loss treatment?
Shane Warne: There have been a few of us! Listen, I think there is a lot more pressure on people to look good these days and, for men, hair is one of the big things. If you’re a cricketer, then you are on the field for days on end with cameras constantly filming everything. If you’re a self-conscious person like I am, losing your hair can really start affecting your confidence. Before my adverts, you had Graham Gooch and Greg Matthews, I like to think that I added a cool factor to it.
You didn’t fancy the skin-head look?
Some people don’t mind going bald, such as hard nuts like Bruce Willis or [Australia cricket coach] Darren Lehmann, but I was not one of those people. It was starting to shake my confidence so I contacted Advance Hair Studios and have now been with them for 14 years.
You’re one of the more notable personas to be so open about receiving hair loss treatment. Do you think that men talking about that kind of thing is losing its stigma?
Exactly. The media is everywhere now, especially with social media, so people are becoming very sensitive to what they look like and having an issue can start to seriously affect your life. Compared to ten years ago, it’s becoming a lot more socially acceptable to talk about treatments or to seek professional help for problems you’re having.
Sledging [verbally putting off your opponent] is a much-talked about part of cricket. Did opponents ever throw the odd hair comment at you?
Thankfully not. Sledging has been criticised recently as being unsportsmanlike, but many just misunderstand it. People think that it is a nasty way of having a go at your opponents, but for me it was more about a clever way to get a psychological edge over them. It was never a personal thing. Comments about someone’s wife are not clever, and rarely work. Most fast bowlers don’t tend to bethe brightest of characters, so you’ll normally find the best ones coming from us spin bowlers [Laughs].
I remember in 2006 when England were touring Australia. One night in during the Adelaide Test match and Michael Clarke and I were in a hotel room eating pizza, talking tactics and watching American Pie with the scene featuring the ‘Shermanator’ character. We spoke about how England were likely to play defensively to try draw the game, and how we needed to get a couple of early wickets to put pressure on them.
The next day, I was fired up. I got Andrew Strauss out early, and the next batsman was Ian Bell. I don’t know why, but as I walked past him I said “Good morning, Shermanator”. He turned and said that he’d been called worse. So, I stopped, looked at him and said “No, you haven’t”. My team started laughing, and for some reason the nickname stuck. It wasn’t a nasty comment, but what it did was affect his focus on the job at hand. I got him out and we won the game.
How important is that psychological edge?
In international sport, the quality of athlete is so high that people say its 90 percent mental. If you are going to be at the top of your field then you have to have the right mindset. That said, if you can get any kind of edge on your opponent then you take it. If I can make a batsman riled up to a point where he is playing me rather than the ball, then I’m winning the battle before I even bowl. The thing is, mind games work if you’re clever about them, but there are too many people who think they know what it’s about and go over the top, and that can have the opposite effect.
You’re now a regular on the poker circuit. Is that your competitive side looking for an outlet?
A little bit. I used to play a lot of cards with my family on holidays, and then later when some genius decided to put cameras under the poker table so that TV viewers could see what was happening, it became huge globally. When I retired, I did quite well in a couple of charity events, and then some sponsors asked me if I wanted to join the circuit. I couldn’t really say no to the offer of being flown around the world to places like Monaco, Berlin and Las Vegas to play cards. It was a great thing to do.
Are you a shades and visor guy?
No. I like to look at people. As a spin bowler I was never able to physically intimidate people, so I had to rely on tactics and strategy, which translates quite well to the poker table. One of my strengths is the ability to weigh people up pretty quickly. I have a lot of faults, but that is one of my strengths. At the table I try to work out who is the professional player, the guy on a weekender with his mates, the rich businessman who thinks he knows what he’s doing, or the guy who has been saving for a year so he can enter the tournament. Each personality type tends to let on how they will play and, like sledging, you can use that information to your advantage.
How much of your life is now about building ‘brand Shane’?
I think I have a pretty strong personal brand. It’s been nearly ten years since I retired, and the fact that people are still interested in me means that people see a value in what I offer. I have several businesses now, I’m an ambassador for Etihad Airways and Advanced Hair Studios and I am still involved with cricket commentary.
How different is it being on the commentary side of the game?
Well, for a start there is a lot less pressure during the matches! You can actually do what you want, such as having a few too many drinks afterwards. You don’t have to watch what you eat or do the early morning training sessions. But all that said, I do take my commentary very seriously. I try to give insight into what the captains might be thinking on the field, but at the same time I don’t assume that everyone listening is a cricket expert who knows where [fielding positions] Mid-off or Cover is.
Do you find it frustrating that cricket isn’t played more widely?
Not really. It’s actually the most participated sport in the world, it’s just that it is not played in America or the Far East. You’ll even find cricket teams in places like Italy, Greece and Argentina. In fact, Los Angeles alone has 45 cricket teams, although mostly made up of expats.
Last year myself and [Indian cricketing legend] Sachin Tendulkar attempted to take cricket to America with Superstars of Cricket. It was really exciting. At Citi Field in New York, we managed to get a total of 110,000 people come and watch three games. When myself and Sachin went to toss the coin there was an unbelievable atmosphere.
So we want to bring cricket to places where it is followed but not played. Having ex-pros compete gives fans a chance to see their heroes like Wasim Akram, Glenn McGrath and Michael Vaughan, play live.
Is it strange to be working on projects with people like Sachin, who you battled with on the field for nearly 20 years?
When I started in the early ’90s, there was more camaraderie between the sides. At the end of each day the senior players would take the younger ones into the other team’s dressing room, share drinks and chat about the day’s play. So I think my generation understood the culture of the old ways because that’s how we were raised. We’d also have dinner with guys from opposition team the night before a game. I became great friends with Brian Lara, Jonty Rhodes, Darren Gough, Wasim and Sachin – and still am. It changed when those players who had played since the ’80s retired, and the era of ‘professionalism’ started. That camaraderie lost its way. Now the teams will perhaps only socialise at the end of a tour.
Do you hang out much with the old crew?
We still go on golfing trips together. It’s good fun. I remember we’d all be piled into a minibus with [West Indies fast bowler] Curtly Ambrose playing guitar with people singing along.
With you on bongos?
Na. I was just listening, probably trying to have a smoke out of the window!
Slight change of subject. Where do you go on holiday?
I love going to Vegas. I’ve been for the poker, but it’s the kind of town that is anything you want it to be. My kids love it there, but I also had some great times with Elizabeth [Hurley].
Are you recognised?
Na. That’s what makes it such a good place for a boy’s weekend. Ripping our tops off, dancing on tables, and no one knowing who you are!
You’re no stranger to a tabloid headline. Did a young, fresh-faced Shane Warne ever expect the spotlight to be thrust upon him so intensely?
Not at all, and it happened so quickly. The thing is, there is no training for sudden fame. You fly by the seat of your pants, you make a lot of mistakes and try to learn from them. Sometimes you make the same mistakes again, but after a period of time you learn how things work. I’m pretty proud of who I am today, and the people I care most about know that. What I found most interesting was that when you are going through s***, it’s amazing to see which of your mates drop everything for you, and which ones don’t. Eventually you work out who those friends are.
The expression “if you can get through life with a handful of friends you’ve done okay” seems apt?
Well, I reckon I’ve got three or four, so I must be doing okay!
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Shane Warne spoke to Esquire on behalf of Advanced Hair Studios. The new Dubai store is open on Al Wasl Road. Visit advancedhairstudiouae.com