Drug ban a blessing in disguise for Warne

Published: Thursday, April 15, 2004, 1:39 [IST]
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London:Shane Warne, who grabbed 26 wickets to flatten Sri Lanka last month and take his tally to 517, only two wickets behind retired West Indies fast bowler Courtney Walsh's world record, has set himself no targets for the English County season.

But the Hampshire captain told a scrum of press and photographers on Wednesday that he would be looking for success in the English championship.

"We have some talented players here - there is no excuse for not doing well, it's time for us to start delivering," the Australian great said.

"We have a good crop of players, and we have 15-16 players who are in contention for a place.

"Our aim will be to play good consistent aggressive cricket, and I want to play exciting cricket and always aim to win games. We are still talking about the style and way we are going to play, but everybody is itching to get out and start on Friday."

He said his year's absence for failing a doping test had proved a blessing.

"For myself the year break from the game has done me a done him a power of good, both mentally and physically - with my shoulder and fingers getting a good chance to heal and strengthen - and my bowling in Sri Lanka was as good as I have ever bowled," he said.

But he added: "I haven't set myself a goal for number of wickets for Hampshire - I don't tend to set targets."

He was looking forward to helping Australian batting prodigy Michael Clarke develop.

The 23-year-old Clarke was hoping to get plenty of opportunities to convince the Australian selectors of his Test credentials.

"Michael Clarke is the best young player in Australia," Warne said.

" He hasn't played a lot of cricket in his career yet, but he's shown in the One-day Internationals, with some unbelievable innings, that he is a very talented wonderful player.

"He is a very good signing and lots of people were after him so we have done well to get him here. He's a very aggressive player who likes to get in the face of the opposition."

Warne finished with 26 wickets and Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan with 28 in last month's series, the Australian becoming the first spinner to complete 500 Test wickets in the first match and the Sri Lankan the youngest and fastest to reach the landmark in the second.

Muralitharan (513 wickets) has a better chance of pipping Warne to the world mark as Sri Lanka tour Zimbabwe next month for two Tests.

He needs seven more scalps to surpass Walsh, not a difficult task considering his recent form.

Warne will have to wait as Australia play their next Test series in May, in Zimbabwe.

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