Here’s the latest in a long line of authorised-version sports documentaries that gives plenty of elbow room for the legend in question to explain themselves, and friends and family to add their admiring two-penn’orth. Shane Warne, Australia’s leading wicket taker in Tests, and second in the all-time list to Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan, makes for an engaging enough subject as he holds forth on his exceptional cricketing career, making honest points about the top-class sportsperson’s ability to block out everything else when necessary, and the consequent damage it does to off-field relationships.
Warne burst into the international arena in the 1990s; the odd combination of spin-bowling guile and beach-bum persona making him an instant star. There’s some good stuff on the techniques that he employed that made his bowling so deadly, and he repeats the allegation, in some detail, that Pakistan captain Salim Malik offered him $200,000 to throw a match. (In 2000 Malik was banned for match-fixing, partly on Warne’s evidence.) On the other hand, Warne is a little less forthcoming on his own sporting troubles: being fined for providing information to a bookmaker in 1994 and a 12-month suspension in 2003 for taking a banned diuretic.
Otherwise, this profile skimps a little on the actual cricket – perhaps inevitable when Warne clearly wants to work through the personal stuff – and Warne being Warne, there’s a bit too much pointless comment from celebrity know-nothings such as Ed Sheeran and Chris Martin. On the other hand, Merv Hughes, looking more than ever like a Viking chieftain waiting for his shield-bearer, comes up with some great lines, including comparing Warne to King Kong. Warne no doubt intended the film to shore up his bloody-good-bloke image, and in this he’s got to be satisfied how it’s turned out.