Shane Warne has urged his fellow Australians to play in the upcoming edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) despite threats from an Indian political party.
The Mumbai-based Shiv Sena, a right-wing party, has said Australians will be barred from playing matches in the city in retaliation for recent attacks on Indians living in Australia, including last month’s murder of 21-year-old Punjabi Nitin Garg in Melbourne,- Warne’s home town.
But Warne, captain and coach of the Rajasthan Royals, told reporters at Lord’s on Monday, “As far as I’ve said, and what I have heard and read, I’ve got no security issues whatsoever.
“There’s been things put in the press about minority incidents happening in Melbourne, which is a terrible shame and very unfortunate.
“I’ve been meeting with the premier of Victoria (John Brumby) to address a lot of those issues and come up with a plan to help the relationship between India and Australia,” Warne said.
“As far as the IPL is concerned, I have absolutely no concerns whatsoever. I’m sure the other Australian players will be looking forward to it too.”
Legendary leg-spinner Warne, who led Rajasthan to victory in the inaugural IPL in 2008, added: “There’s a lot of security with the teams. I’ve got no issue whatsoever travelling to India.
“It took me a while to appreciate the culture, the people and to enjoy India. The first few (Australia) tours, when you are losing, getting smashed all over the park and getting none for a hundred, it’s not much fun.
“But the last couple of tours we managed to beat India over there, I really started to enjoy the people and their passion,” explained Warne, who retired from Test cricket following Australia’s 5-0 Ashes whitewash of England in 2007.
“And being involved in the last few years in the IPL, I’ve got no issues whatsoever in going to India.”
Indian cricket officials, including International Cricket Council (ICC) president-elect Sharad Pawar, held talks on Sunday with Bal Thackeray, the leader of Shiv Sena, in a bid to have the party’s threat against Australian cricketers rescinded.
The third edition of the IPL, which last year was moved to South Africa because of security concerns, is due to start with a match between the Deccan Chargers and the Kolkata Knight Riders in Mumbai on March 12.
Warne was speaking at the launch of Royals 2020, which will involve domestic sides from several countries in a new Twenty20 event.
Teams signed up so far include Rajasthan Royals, the driving forced behind the plan, English county Hampshire, where Warne was once a player and captain, West Indies’ Trinidad and Tobago and the Cape Cobras from South Africa.
Warne could have connections with three of the competing sides, who also plan commercial tie-ups, if ongoing talks to bring his native Victoria on board are successful.
Organisers said they were looking to stage the first Royals 2020 event in July during a ‘window’ in the English season, with matches in either Australia or South Africa during the Christmas holiday period in December.
“I’m so excited by this,” said the 40-year-old Warne. “It would be nice to be 20 years younger.”