Warne spins a line over Ashes return

CRICKET Australia says there will be no Ashes parachute for Shane Warne, but a quick ‘‘clarification’’ from the champion leg-spinner suggested he was only ever joking about making a comeback.

Warne made some typically teasing remarks about a potential Test comeback late on Tuesday only to shoot the idea down himself less than 24 hours later.

Asked to respond to Warne’s initial comment that he could don the Baggy Green again if asked by captain Michael Clarke, CA did not rule it out, but there was a caveat.

‘‘Shane Warne making himself available for Test selection is a tantalising thought but, ultimately, this would mean Shane making himself available to play Bupa Sheffield Shield cricket, which is the place where Australian Test cricketers are selected from,’’ a CA spokesman said.

Warne, Australia’s record wicket-taker, has long acknowledged a return to first-class cricket would not fit with his hectic trans-continental schedule of family, business and charity commitments.

But he stoked the fires when he said: ‘‘If your best friend says, ‘Mate, I want you to seriously consider making a commitment to Australian cricket and coming back out of retirement,’ make myself available for selection, that’s a different scenario.’’

Come yesterday, though, and there was an apology of sorts to Clarke and an explanation as to what the 43-year-old really meant.

‘‘Clarification guys & thankyou for the kind words, but... I was asked ‘could’ I play not ‘would’ I play..yes, I could..didn’t say I would!’’ Warne said on Twitter.

‘‘It was a hypothetical question re if Michael Clarke asked me... Read my quotes ‘‘I’m not asking Michael to ask me’’ Hope I didn’t disappoint !’’

‘‘Sorry MClarke23 if you woke up to calls! See you soon buddy....’’

Fellow spin champion Muttiah Muralitharan, who will come up against Warne in the Twenty20 Big Bash League season opener between the two Melbourne-based teams tomorrow, had no doubt Warne was capable of a successful Test comeback.

‘‘Definitely he can come back because he’s maybe fit now and he’s playing the last two years in the Big Bash,’’ said the Sri Lankan, adding he did not know if Warne was serious.

‘‘He’s talented and, if he wish, he can walk into the side.’’

Retired England skipper Nasser Hussain told English newspapers it would be great for the Ashes if Warne came back.

‘‘Warne is the greatest cricketer I ever played against, and he has never been anything less than absolutely box office,’’ Hussain said.

Warne retired from Test cricket in January 2007 and has 195 Ashes wickets in 36 Tests at an average of 23.25.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene said his team were bracing for a backlash from Australia in their three-Test series, likening Clarke’s men to ‘‘wounded soldiers’’.

Speaking before Sri Lanka’s tour-opening three-day match against a Chairman’s XI in Canberra from today, Jayawardene said the Australian team would be hurting badly after their 309-run defeat by South Africa in the third Test in Perth.

He had no doubt they would use that as motivation in the series against Sri Lanka, which starts tomorrow week in Hobart. ‘‘I see them as wounded soldiers. They could come back stronger against us,’’ Jayawardene said.

Sri Lanka are wounded themselves, coming off a 167-run Test loss to New Zealand in a home series where their best batsman, Kumar Sangakkara, did not excel.

The Black Caps’ rare Test victory allowed them to draw the two-game series and led to speculation Jayawardene would step down from the Sri Lankan captaincy.

The 35-year-old confirmed yesterday that he would assess his position as captain after the Australian series, hinting that it would be wise to start grooming vice-captain Angelo Mathews into the role of captain.

‘‘After this, we get a well-deserved four weeks off, after about three years, so it gives me a bit of time to think  what I need to do,’’ Jayawardene said.   ‘‘We need to groom another leader as well.  

‘‘It’s very important to have that changeover done smoothly while the senior players are still in the side.’’ AAP

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