Shane Warne has returned to the Rajasthan Royals franchise as its mentor ahead of the 2018 IPL season. Warne, 48, will renew his association with the side he led to a title in the inaugural edition of the IPL in 2008. The former Australian legspinner went on to lead the Royals for the next three editions, before retiring after the 2011 season. Warne, who has mentored the side in the past, remains the Royals' third-highest wicket-taker of all time, with 58 scalps from 56 matches.
"I am very happy and excited to be back with the Rajasthan Royals, who I believe hold a very special place in my cricketing journey," Warne was quoted as saying in the Royals website. "I am overwhelmed by the love and affection showered on me by the franchise and fans of Rajasthan Royals. We have a strong, young and energetic bunch of boys, and I am looking forward to work with them."
While Warne has worked with India batsman Ajinkya Rahane in the past, he will work with compatriot Steven Smith - the frontrunner to lead the side - for the first time in the IPL. Warne will also be joined by another old Rajasthan Royals hand Zubin Bharucha, who has now taken over as head of cricket. Bharucha and Warne had worked together during the early years of the Royals. Manoj Badale, co-owner of Royals, said bringing back Warne was a way of giving back to the fans "who have stood by us in trying times."
"As we are looking to build a strong team that can be in contention for the title, we believe Warne is the right person to mentor the Rajasthan Royals," Badale said. "Zubin has also contributed immensely to the growth of the team, and we are happy to have both back on board. We are excited and looking forward to a successful comeback."
According to the Royals website, Warne will have a "multitude" of tasks on and off the field. "His main role will be to work closely with the senior leaders in the team, particularly the captain, to ensure all areas of strategy and tactics are covered. In addition, he will be working with all the spinners to impart technical knowledge in the art of spin."