Shane Warne has paid a visit to Pakistan’s training session in Sharjah to have a one-on-one session with legspinner Yasir Shah. After their one-and-a-half hour session, Yasir said it had fulfilled a childhood wish to bowl with the legendary Australian.
This was the first organised meeting between the two, with Warne in the UAE to promote a golf tournament. Warne was also keen to get some practice before his All Stars T20 matches in the USA. Pakistan’s team management were reluctant to let Warne take part in a team training session but allowed him and Yasir to spend some time on one of the pitches at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Yasir’s excitement was clear and he said he was happy to meet his hero. “I had a wish from my childhood that I could bowl with him and play with him,” Yasir said. “I was excited to have him here for me. I am very happy to hear the kind of feedback he gave me, and he spoke highly about me.
“He didn’t teach me everything but gave me very useful tips about certain things, and didn’t find any problem in my bowling action. He emphasised that Test cricket is played with patience and I don’t need to rush and waste energy, just keep myself calm.”
When asked if he could get confused with having too many coaches around him, he said: “I don’t think I can get lost focus as I am working a lot with Mushy bhai. His [Warne] tips are very useful, which I am going to try in the long run, but during the series I won’t make any changes.”
Yasir was perhaps a little star struck as Pakistan arrived for their training session at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, with his team-mates calling “berha khush ha aj Yasir” [look how excited Yasir is today] at the news of Warne coming to nets.
Warne had been due to arrive at 10am but eventually turned up just after 11am. The team security manager was overhead saying “a gya” [he came] as Yasir hurried towards the dressing room, where Pakistan’s team manager, Intikhab Alam, introduced the two legspinners.
“Look I have always been a fan of Shah since the first time I saw him a while ago,” Warne said afterward. “He’s probably the best legspinner in the world. The way he bowls and the way the ball comes out of his hand its fantastic. I think he is more of a natural talent than me. If he gets his pace right and doesn’t try to bowl quick and keeps patience… He has got a beautiful leg break.”
“He is a wonderful bowler now, although he hasn’t played a lot Test – but he has played a lot of first-class cricket. He is a world-class spinner. Test match cricket is what all we love and spinners can excel in this format.”
Yasir climbed to No. 2 in the world rankings for Test bowlers after taking eight wickets against England in Dubai. Overall, he has picked up 69 wickets in 11 Test matches at an average of 24.55.
Warne was the player Yasir idolised and grew up watching him. The pair met in Adelaide during the World Cup earlier this year but on that occasion only spent a few minutes together, and Warne said he would be happy to share more of his expertise with Yasir in the UAE, given the opportunity.
“Probably I am a bit biased for legspinners, but I love seeing spin bowling and I am very passionate about it,” Warne said. “I have always liked to help as many spin bowlers as I possibly can, whether it’s Kaneria, who I have helped little bit, or Graeme Swann, Kumble, Saqlain, Mushy, Dan Vettori – all of the spinners have got a club, so we always try to help each other. We are bit different, think differently than most people. It was a fantastic opportunity to work with Yasir; we worked on a couple of things.
“I am not big on working on technical things because you have your natural gift and what is natural to you, so there’s no point working on technical things, especially in the middle of a Test series. Off-season’s when you have time work on that. He is a wonderful bowler, beautiful, so we just worked on who he has having troubles with in the England side, some tactics and plans, how he can be little bit better.”
Yasir was mainly assisted by Mushtaq Ahmed, Pakistan’s spin bowling coach, to cover the language barrier. It was Warne who did most of the talking, with Shah was rarely speaking, though he questioned about getting spin and drift.
“He wants a bit more drift and bounce, bowling round the wicket and over the wicket,” Warne said. “I hope by the end of the series he will be bowling beautifully and a huge smile on his face. We couldn’t communicate that well but when he was smiling afterwards I knew what he got was pretty good. It was nice hour or so and that was good fun.”
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent. @kalson