The IPL reaches its climax with the final in Chennai on Saturday, but for me, one of the most poignant moments of IPL 4 has already taken place. Rohit Sharma had made a swift 58 for Mumbai Indians against Rajastan Royals, when he was stumped by Pinal Shah, off the bowling of Shane Warne. It was Warnie's last wicket in the IPL as he brought down the curtain on a career of outstanding achievement. Its hard to comprehend that he has now played his last ever competitive match.
Shane was an inspiration to me when I was putting the IPL together. He has very kindly credited me with enticing him into the IPL in the first place and I'm very proud that he should think in those terms. But from my point of view, how could you conceive a tournament like the IPL and not include arguably the best leg-spinner the world has ever seen?
Shane Warne epitomises everything I envisaged with the IPL. First and foremost of course, he's a talented cricketer who always provided anticipation and excitement every time he bowled. But away from the pitch, he has been a terrific ambassador and a larger-than-life character who was just fun to have around the place. In fact, the IPL and Shane Warne could have been made for each other. They were a perfect fit.
He has been a tremendous cricketer and I believe he can now become an equally masterful innovator with his ideas on how to keep cricket in tune with the modern-day demands of both the public and the all-important television companies who are always looking for something a little different.
I'm sure he'll be a driving force for ongoing progress, although I don't think he'll ever do it by becoming part of the establishment! We all know Shane has had the odd brush with cricket administrations and administrators in his time but it was a pity his last one should overshadow the week leading up to his last game on Friday.
Shane was fined $50,000 for his part in a public row with Rajastan Cricket Association Secretary Sanjay Dixit. They had fallen out because The Royals were forced to play their home match with the Chennai Super Kings on a different wicket to the one they wanted. It didn’t suit them, they lost the match and Shane was angry about an unprecedented pre-match instruction. Despite an apology for his outburst, Shane was fined. Dixit who, it appeared to me, was equally verbose with his public comment, was not.
On a personal level, the real intrigue was buried a little deeper. The team that clearly benefitted from the switch was Chennai, who’s ownership includes Mr. N. Srinivasan. He also happens to be Secretary of the IPL’s governing body, the BCCI; a dual role that appears acceptable to the BCCI itself. On the other hand, the BCCI is challenging me with an allegation that I have a personal stake in the IPL team set-up which they say, represented a conflict of interest with my position as Commissioner. First and foremost, it is an unfounded and false allegation for which no evidence has been submitted. Yet I remain under investigation, while the undeniable dual role of their own secretary appears perfectly acceptable.
As far as the BCCI’s treatment of Shane’s is concerned, the whole pitch episode in Jaipur was an unseemly and unnecessary prelude to the last game of a legendary cricketer and a brilliant ambassador for the IPL. But it was that final wicket in Mumbai on Friday night, when Sharma was mesmerised by flight and spin, that summed up the ‘real’ Shane Warne. It represented the end of an unforgettable era for the world’s finest bowler and I am proud that Shane's competitive career ended playing for the Rajastan Royals in the IPL.