Shane Warne has a professional spin-bowler crush. The object of his affection? Yasir Shah, the Pakistani leg spinner, who is set to play his first Test on Aussie soil in Brisbane on Thursday.
The Warne-crush started in October 2015. After working with the 30-year-old Shah in the nets, Warne took to Instagram to declare:
"Just finished a net session with Yasir Shah. He has the best leg break I've ever seen! He was ripping them by the end! Thanks for having me at training Yasir, was an honour to work with you."
In July, the love-in resumed transmission. Commentating on the midyear Test series in England, Warne said of Shah:
"He's a fun guy, he loves the art of bowling. He's a really passionate character, he's a bundle of energy. He's got wrong 'uns, straight ones, flippers. And I think he's got the best leg-break I've ever seen."
Two points make a line, people. This was not Shane Warne -- who had the best leg break anyone has ever seen -- waxing enthusiastically after some guy somewhere had a good day out. This was genuine respect and admiration.
So then. Let's see a little of why Shane is so shaken up over Shah. We could dazzle you with stats, like the fact that:
- Shah got to 100 Test wickets in just his 17th Test, which places him equal second on the all-time list. For the record, Warne got there in 23;
- Shah has taken 116 wickets in his 20 Tests. That means he gets 5.8 wickets per Test. Which is a lot. Warney averaged 4.9 wickets per Test over his 145 match career;
- Shah has taken five wickets or more in an innings eight times, in just 27 innings. That means he demolishes the opposition batting lineup once every 3.5 innings. Warne managed it just once every 7.4 innings.
Video time. Here's Shah demolishing England at Lord's, which is never a terrible thing to watch.
If you don't have time to watch the full clip, here's our favourite highlight. Leg spinners move the ball from right to left after it bounces. Except for when they do their sneaky straight one that skids through. Warney used to call it "the flipper". This is Shah's version. So good.
And here's what one of Shah's classic leggies look like. Also nice.
Shah is one of those cricketers who has clearly benefited from a long apprenticeship in domestic cricket. He debuted for his Pakistani province in 2002, but only played his first Test in 2014 (against Australia, In Dubai). From that point on, it was hard to work out who Pakistan had picked ahead of him for so long.
Like so many great tales, there's a terrific twist in this one.
Turns out Shah only took up legspin bowling because he saw Warne bowling on TV, then started emulating him after a friend sent him a video. So the apprentice has become the master. Don't you love it when real life works out that way?
This should be an interesting Test series. Much depends on whether Good Australia or Bad Australia turns up, and for that matter, Good Pakistan or Bad Pakistan.
Both teams sat atop the official ICC Test rankings at different times this year (we're now third and fourth respectively behind India and England), but both teams have since had severe form swings. Pakistan just lost a series in New Zealand. Which doesn't much make you fancy their chances in Australia.
But then, they've got Yasir Shah and we don't.
SPECIAL BONUS! Here's a video of Warney mentoring Shah alongside the former Pakistani leg spinner Mushtaq Ahmed. Aside from the bowling stuff, it's a really interesting insight into Warne himself, and the psychology he always employed when bowling.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST AUSTRALIA
ALSO ON HUFFPOST AUSTRALIA