WHEN Shane Warne last tasted success in Twenty20 cricket, with Rajasthan Royals in the first season of the Indian Premier League in 2008, his influence on that feat was unparalleled. If he can do likewise in the looming Big Bash League, for Melbourne Stars, this time he will ensure the plaudits stretch well beyond he and his on-field teammates.
The most obvious change in the 43-year-old since he ended his illustrious Test career almost six years ago is his now-slender physique. Less obvious but no less significant is his now high regard for coaches, at domestic level at least.
At Rajasthan, Warne effectively ran his own race, with support from Darren Berry for tactics and sports-psychology expert Jeremy Snape.
At the Stars, Warne is surrounded by a battery of coaches: Victorian staff Greg Shipperd, Damien Wright and Shawn Flegler, playing coach Brad Hodge, former Test captain Ian Chappell, Delhi Daredevils assistant Trent Woodhill, Snape and revered West Indies icon Viv Richards. Rather than bristle at such a scenario, the champion leg-spinner is rapt about it.
''At the Royals, it was up to me, 'Snapey' and 'Chuck' [Berry] to prepare everyone, select them, do all that stuff. This time, it's lucky we've got a better set-up,'' Warne said this week ahead of the Stars' derby against the Renegades on Friday night.
''There's two areas [of preparation crucial] for Twenty20. There's on-field tactics and getting the best out of individuals and leading the team, which is my responsibility … in consultation with everybody else. It's up to the off-field staff to prepare everyone to be ready to play.
''In my 26 seasons of cricket, I don't think I've been in a more talented squad … and, with eight, nine coaches off-field, a more talented or knowledgeable environment. It's pretty amazing the talent we've got in our room. It's all about co-ordinating that.''
The fact that Stars chairman Eddie McGuire's initial pitch to Warne was for a one- or two-match cameo increased the significance of his eventual decision to instead play a full season last summer.
Warne's lingering agitation at the Stars failing to reach their lofty internal and external expectations - they finished fourth - was a factor in him committing for this season too while still ''juggling two continents, juggling four kids' school schedules, juggling myself and [fiancee] Elizabeth's work schedules, juggling being a father''.
The Stars demonstrated their faith in Warne, as a leader as well as a player, by appointing him captain ahead of season-one leader Cameron White.
When Warne came back for last season's BBL it was only six months since his final IPL stint. This time around Warne is coming off a 10-and-a-half-month break.
Despite Warne's lofty opinion of his bowling form - ''I feel like I'm bowling as good as I ever have'' - his lack of formal preparatory matches may prove to be a hindrance for the Stars' matches early in the tournament. But his general fitness is, despite his age, superior to what it was for much of his international career.
''[Maintaining] fitness and eating properly is second nature, it's part of my life now, whereas before it wasn't really on my agenda,'' he said.
''Since I've started the fitness stuff and doing my push-ups and the odd sprints [sessions] and not eating as much junk it's just a routine, I don't think of it now. Of course I still have a pizza and a beer and chips and a hot pie, that sort of stuff, but I don't do it every day.''
The legacy of Warne's many on-field feats is that his opinion on any cricketing topic is almost guaranteed to be newsworthy, as evidenced earlier this week by his emphatic endorsement of his Stars teammate Rob Quiney as Ricky Ponting's Test batting successor. He said he aimed to replicate his candid approach to captaincy in his media roles, irrespective of whether it rankled those he offered his opinion on.
''If people want to listen to my opinion I suppose I've earned that … because that's a respect factor from 26 years of playing. I watch and I'm not afraid to say exactly what I think … that's one of the reasons I've been a successful captain too. I don't say [a player has been dropped] because of team balance, I say 'I don't think you're playing well enough at the moment'. I don't bullshit to anyone, I'm straight-up.''