I watched Shane Warne interview with Parkinson on pay TV last night. It was strong telly, with only about four pieces of bowling shown, but lots of straight-talking from Warnie and his ageing inquisitor.
The fact that Warnie and his manager appeared in the credits as executive producers kind of ate into the idea that this was pure, unplanned journalism, but it was still revealing. When Warnie said he took the infamous diuretic tablet out of “pure vanity”, Parkinson picked him up on the fact that the same tablet can be used as a masking agent for anabolic steroids and the theory had been that Warne had actually been taking steroids to recover from his badly injured shoulder. Warnie waved off the allegation but it was the first time this correspondent had seen him actually face-to-face with the charge.
There has been some debate in the Crikey feedback section about whether Warnie should be seen as a role model, even whether we should miss him. Watching last night made me realise why this man is impossible not to like. He is such an open book. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He doesn’t duck questions. There is no political doublespeak with Warne and, to quote Popeye, “I yam what I yam.” Warne can get that look in his eye that tells you why he’s been such a great competitor, but he doesn’t shirk issues. Compared to, say, a certain Prime Minister of this country, who could look shifty answering a question about how many legs he has, Warnie is refreshing in his candour.
In an article recently, during the endless goodbye tour, Warnie said that Ian Chappell had given him one of his greatest ever pieces of advice: to know who you are, for better or worse. Clearly Warne does, and everything Parkinson threw at him, from the bookmaking charge to the womanising to the drug ban to sledging, the spinner shrugged and accepted, even if he offered less damning versions of the bookmaker and drug scandals.
Parkinson is obviously a huge cricket fan, but perfectly balanced celebrating Warne’s amazing career and how he became the bowler he is, from very uncertain, undisciplined and careless beginnings, with some tougher questions. As Warnie broke into an obvious sweat during the harder questions, Parkinson took a moment to explain why he was grilling him; that he was fascinated by the fact that to achieve his on-field success, Warne had been so meticulously prepared, so considered, so thoughtful in the way he approached each batsman, yet had been so astonishingly careless in his off-field exploits.
I’m sure Andrew Denton was gnashing his teeth, wishing he was in the chair, but this was one last great stand by the veteran interviewer. On the subject of infidelity and tabloid intrusion into Warne’s personal life, Parkinson simply shook his head and told the bowler he understands the rules, that fame has this price, that he should know all the traps by now. Warne could only agree, and did so without umbrage.