Hostile reception awaits ‘Shame’ Warne in Sri Lanka

Agence France Presse

Colombo, March 3:

Australia’s Shane Warne is set to face hostile Sri Lankan fans when he returns from a drug-induced ban to take part in next week’s Test series, newspapers said on Wednesday.

The star leg-spinner, who served out a 12-month ban after failing a dope test before the World Cup last year, was dubbed “Shame Warne” by the media even as crowds began to heckle the player.

“No international cricketer has been involved in controversies in relation to Sri Lanka as much as Warne,” the Island newspaper said in a story headlined ‘Shame Warne is back.’

The newspaper noted that Warne was jeered when he emerged from the pavilion for a practice stint during the one-day international over the weekend, with fans shouting “Shane Warne, go home.”

Sri Lanka’s former World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga also did not spare Warne, saying the Australian should have been banned for life for taking drugs.

“Twelve months seem like a long time, but I don’t agree with the punishment he got,” Ranatunga said. “If you take drugs, you should be banned for life.”

In the lead-up to the Test series, which starts in Galle on March 8, Ranatunga and Warne had been engaged in a verbal spat. Warne, who has been mocked publicly in the past over his weight, had said of the chubby Ranatunga: “Arjuna, he’s probably slotting himself around at 150 kilos at the moment, is he? Swallowed a sheep or something like that?”

Ranatunga reportedly retorted by saying that it was better to swallow a sheep than to take what the Australian had been ingesting — a reference to him using a banned diuretic.

Warne was whisked away by the team management from a media conference last week when local media tried to ask him about his spat with Ranatunga and possible confrontation with local crowds.