For most people who have watched him bowl or have lived through the era of his career, Shane Warne is, arguably, the greatest spinner of all time. While his tally of 708 wickets falls short of Muttiah Muralitharan's 800-mark and the amount of wickets he has picked up per match, on an average, is also short of the Sri Lankan maestro, few non-Sri Lankans debate his position as the better bowler.
While overtaking Muttiah Muralitharan's tally of 800 wickets is beyond question, as of now, overtaking Warne's 708 also looks unlikely. But guess what! The Aussie legend has declared that there is one bowler he sees overtaking him in terms of Test match scalps.
This bowler is none other than fellow Australian Nathan Lyon. The off-spinner has been in great form over the last couple of years and has been picking up wickets quite prolifically. During the third Ashes Test at Headingley, Lyon went past Dennis Lillee's tally of 355 wickets to become the third-most successful Australian bowler of all time. He now only has Glenn McGrath and Warne in front of him.
At first sight, the claim that the 32-year old offie can beat Warne's record seems outlandish. However, the former leg-spinner has done his calculations.
"I think he (Lyon) is a chance. If you do the stats – if he plays another 85 or 90 Tests, and takes four wickets per game, that's 360 wickets – so he'll get me," he told cricket.com.au, Cricket Australia's official website.
But Warne added that the off-spinner needs to keep himself motivated. "As long as his hunger is there for the game, if he's still enjoying the game."
Shane also added in the same interview that watching his record broken would make him happy rather than disappointed. "I'd love to watch someone get my record, that would be fantastic because it would mean they've done bloody well for Australia for a long period of time."
The all-time great former tweaker had another factor in mind while making this prognosis. He had to undergo a shoulder surgery which forced him to miss some matches. Warne feels that Lyon is unlikely to have such problems owing to the nature of off-spin bowling.
"Spin bowling is still always taxing on your body. Off-spin is probably – if there is an easier form of the game on your body – the less stressful. You still get tired, it still hurts, but compared to fast bowling, leg spin and all the other forms of bowling, it's probably the easiest on your body."
The retired Australian spin wizard also praised 'Gary,' as the off-spinner is nicknamed by his teammates, for having become successful without having the fancy variations many other off-spinners possessed.
"Which is even more of a testament to 'Lyno', because he's really only got an off-break and a straight one. A lot of the other offies that we've seen – Harbhajan (Singh), Murali, Saqlain (Mushtaq) – these guys had doosras and all sorts of other deliveries.
"Nathan's got the traditional old off-spinner, and a straight one. So he's very clever, he thinks about the game well, and hopefully his body holds up, which it should."
Lyon's popularity would have soared even more if umpire Joel Wilson had given Ben Stokes out in the penultimate over, bowled by him, of the third Ashes Test at Headingley or if Australia hadn't wasted their last remaining review on a hopeless appeal. Australia would have won the game by a solitary run. However, things turned out otherwise. Still, the offie is in good form and has two matches remaining to make further impact.