Warne to face old rivals
Cape Town - When Shane Warne returns to competitive cricket with the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL) on Saturday, he'll be doing so in an unfamiliar climate.
The Australian retired from international cricket more than two years ago, but South African crowds who flock to catch a piece of the IPL action will not have forgotten his exploits against the Proteas.
For years the legspinner tormented South African batsmen and their fans, so it will be interesting to see the type of reception reserved for Warne when he leads out his franchise in their opening game against Bangalore Royal Challengers.
"The public have booed me most of the time but hopefully playing with the Rajasthan Royals they'll get behind me," Warne told the Sunday Times.
"Hopefully when I come on to bowl I'll get a clap, or a cheer or whistle."
Warne's wiles were largely responsible for Rajasthan's fairytale opening season, when they swept to victory after spending the least money at the inaugural IPL auction.
His astute captaincy endeared him to fans around India, but questions remain as to whether he will have the same effect in a country where for many years he was all but despised.
Adding to the intrigue is the presence in the Royals ranks of Proteas captain Graeme Smith, who regularly engaged Warne in verbal jousts at international level.
This coming together of former rivals is the basis on which the IPL thrives, but Warne insists that the duo get along well and sees Smith as being crucial to Royals' success on South African turf.
"We had a few beers after the first game (of the 2008 IPL) and chatted about a lot of stuff," Warne said.
"We hung out a fair bit. We've kept in touch since then and become good buddies.
"I think he enjoys the IPL as well, just having the opportunity and the freedom to go out and bat without the responsibility of anything else.
"For us, being in South Africa and having the captain of South Africa in our side is a huge advantage."