London:More than 10 years after saying that Sachin Tendulkar gave him nightmares, Australian spin legend Shane Warne now claims that he was never scared of the Indian batting maestro and his 1998 remarks were "no gospel".
Warne was at the receiving end of Tendulkar's batting fury when Australia toured India in early 1998 and the retired Australian had made the widely-reported comments that he saw the Mumbaikar in his nightmares after the beating he got on the field.
In his recently published book 'Shane Warne's Century', Warne had named Tendulkar the number one batsman he has played against ahead of West Indian Brian Lara.
"He never frightened me. I think I might have said 'I'm going to have a few nightmares tonight' once and some journalists took it as gospel, but I was never frightened of anyone. And that's not me being big-headed, I was just confident of my ability.
"Players like (Brian) Lara and Tendulkar were always a challenge, because they were the best in the business and if you want to compete at that level you've got to step up to the mark. Of course some days they're going to smash you out of the park and you congratulate them afterwards, but you're going to get them next time," he told 'Sunday Observer'.
Warne, who was named by Observer Sports Monthly as the Sportsman of 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award, however, suggested that Tendulkar was better than Lara in terms of entertainment value, number of matches he won for his team.
Ask what criteria did he use for including or excluding players in his book, Warne said, "I went on the principle that when I'm watching a sport I want to be entertained. So my number one criteria was entertainment, two was what impact did they have on me as a player, three was the impact they had on the team -- could they win a match off their own bat -- and then there was their skill and their spirit.
"I didn't look at their statistics too much. That wasn't a guide, because stats can be accurate but misleading. A match-winner can actually have quite a modest average overall. And some players are just better to watch. That's why I put Mark Waugh above Steve Waugh in the book, because if they were both playing in separate grounds in town on the same day, I know who I'd pay money to watch play."
The maverick spinner, who led Rajasthan Royals to the Indian Premier League crown, said he now expects more salary from the franchise as it has become richer.
"The first year was amazing. I'm really looking forward to going back and defending our title. No one can ever take that away from us that we won the inaugural IPL. Off the last ball! What an achievement. It was a fairytale. Especially for all the younger players.
"I reckon I deserve a lot more now that we won it. The franchise has tripled, maybe quadrupled in price. They've got me cheap!"
Talking about coping with Indian food during IPL, Warne, notoriously conservative with his diet, said, "The wonderful people of Jaipur now make an amazing margherita pizza. I've spoken to the chefs and they've got it down pat. So I'm a lucky man. It's making me hungry thinking about it."
On any advice he would offer to just-retired Anil Kumble, Warne said, "I spoke to him the other day, actually. He's a very smart man, engineer by trade, and I'm sure, considering everything he's achieved, there'll be plenty of doors open to him in India and internationally. I sense he's weighing up his options. He's a wonderful human being."
His 1993 'ball of the century' to dismiss Mike Gatting still ranks his best delivery.
"Oh, for sure. Mike Gatting's in '93 is still probably the best. Umpire Dickie Bird's was almost as funny. He couldn't believe what he'd seen either. 'That was owt, yer've gat ta gore.'"
And what is it going to take to get him to play for Australia again?
"No chance, mate. My scriptwriter keeps telling me to do it. He says it could be the final chapter. But I said: 'Mate, you haven't got any pens left. There are no more scripts. Let's just let it be.'"