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Warne Ends Cricket Retirement for Australia’s Big Bash

Shane Warne, the second-highest wicket-taker in Tests, ended his professional cricket retirement to play in Australia’s inaugural Twenty20 Big Bash League.

Warne, who quit in May after four seasons playing in the Indian Premier League, will join the Melbourne Stars for the eight-team competition starting Dec. 16. He said he’ll play a full campaign and combine his team commitments with his role as a commentator for Australia’s Nine Network.

“There was a few offers about playing a game here and there and I thought if I’m going to do this let’s do it properly,” Warne, 42, said at a televised news conference in Melbourne. “This is something that I’m passionate about.”

Warne said the chance to take part in a new tournament featuring city-based teams and pass on his knowledge from his two-decade career had lured him out of retirement. He also said his three children, now aged 14, 12 and 10, would be able to get a better understanding of what he did for a living.

Leg-spinner Warne, named one of the five “Cricketers of the 20th Century” by Wisden, the sport’s almanac, quit international cricket in 2007 with a then-record 708 Test wickets for Australia. The mark was broken later that year by Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan, who retired 16 months ago after extending his record tally to 800 Test wickets.

After quitting first-class cricket in 2008, Warne spent four seasons in India playing Twenty20, the sport’s newest and shortest format. He joined the Rajasthan Royals as captain when the IPL began in 2008 and led the Jaipur-based team to the inaugural title. He took 56 wickets in 52 games for Rajasthan.

‘Sense of Confidence’

“I feel excited about playing cricket again,” Warne said. “I wouldn’t be going into this and playing all nine games hopefully without a sense of confidence in my ability that I could actually go out there and make a difference.”

Cricket Australia revamped its Twenty20 tournament for the 2011-12 season and included two teams each in Sydney and Melbourne, the country’s most-populous cities. The 31-match competition runs from Dec. 16 to Jan. 28, with the Sydney Sixers hosting Brisbane Heat in the opening game.

Warne’s first game will be Dec. 17 when the Stars host the Sydney Thunder at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Overseas players to have signed up with Big Bash teams include Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi, Paul Collingwood of England and West Indian Chris Gayle.

Bookies Favorites

Australia-based online bookmaker said it made the Stars the 9-2 favorites for the title following Warne’s signing. The Melbourne Renegades and the Brisbane Heat share the second line of betting at 5-1, said.

“On paper most sides in the Big Bash look very even but the Warne factor means the Stars must be outright favorites, said spokesman Haydn Lane. ‘‘The Rajasthan Royals were considered rank outsiders in the IPL’s first season but Warne led them from nowhere to win the tournament.’’

Melbourne-born Warne said he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of extending his contract with the Stars if everything goes well in the 2011-12 season.

‘‘Let’s see how it goes and we’ll take it from there,” Warne said. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I could play a part and go out there and change the course of a game. I’ve got a lot to offer. Hopefully I can spin a couple past them and it’ll be a bit of fun.”

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