The caveman who frets about wrinkles

'How white are my teeth for a young fella,'' says Shane Warne while showing me a photograph of himself as a teenager.

The younger Warne has a fat face and porcelain teeth. Now 43, Warne has even whiter teeth, a slimmer face and tighter, more bronzed skin. He seems to know what I am thinking. ''Questions re. facelift/Botox, etc are absolute rubbish,'' he says, unprovoked. ''I am 86kg - lost 7kg and are [sic] close to being the fittest I have ever been.''

Perhaps sensing my doubts, Warne adds: ''I am also eating very healthily and am flattered that people think I look younger.''

When I don't reply, Warne's self-doubt creeps in.

''Am considering Botox as have far to [sic] many wrinkles!!! Thoughts? Any other work

help the face?

''What about hairs in your ears - do they grow? Seriously think mine are getting longer - do you leave them or cut them - carefully - confused [sic].''

When he played cricket for Australia, Warne was better known for his beer belly and badly bleached hair. Men especially loved him because, despite being the greatest bowler in the history of cricket, he seemed rather like them - he smoked, gorged on pizza and sent regrettable text messages.

If there were signs of a vainer Warne - the cricketer wore earrings and modelled hair renewal for Advanced Hair Studio - he kept them mostly to himself.

In retirement, Warne has been accused of ''changing'', which in Australia is almost always a bad thing.

His persona has divided and his two sides are wrestling to become his permanent identity. Half of Warne is obsessing over Botox and moisturiser. And the other half wants to be left alone to smoke, drink and watch footy.

His Twitter followers trace this division back to late 2010, when he began courting the British actress Elizabeth Hurley, now his fiancee.

In an exchange typical of their early romance, on October 14, 2010, Hurley wrote to Warne: ''Ooooh … you're such a caveman. My beautiful baby spaniel is undoubtedly better behaved than you x.''

''Excuse me Elizabeth I'm a very well behaved gentleman !'' Warne replied. ''Caveman ?? What's that mean ? We have tv her [sic] in Australia! Hahaha.''

On another occasion Hurley wrote that her ''sister's dog ran through a glass door … a really horrific accident''. ''Poor Sammy,'' Warne said. ''That's terrible hope he's ok …''

''Sammy sends you a special lick and says he'd like to put his silky head on your shoulder,'' Hurley said.

The indignities have since mounted. Inspired by his new relationship, Warne has broadcast a series of epiphanies ranging from the domestic (''Seriously how does a fruit platter turn into the best hot pie with sauce!! Magic …'') to the esoteric (''No matter what anyone says if you know in your heart how you feel about anything or anyone who cares what people think/say!!!'')

Some feel the world's greatest spin bowler has shared too much. But he is unrepentant. ''Don't hold it against me,'' Warne wrote in May 2011. ''Listening to ABBA!!!!!!!!'' He has since admitted to liking Bette Midler.

The emergence of Warne's metrosexual side has helped his personal brand scale heights only a few sportsmen - David Beckham among them - have reached.

Warne's name adorns a charity, a poker website and an underwear label. He models for Advanced Hair and commentates for three television networks. His metrosexuality has even seeped into his cricket, which he still plays occasionally, though profitably, in the abbreviated 20-over format of the game known as Twenty20.

While the old Warnie played game after game for Australia with injuries you never heard about, the modern Warne says things like this after a light run around with the Melbourne Stars: ''My body is aching from, bowling again, fitness every morning and Tennis [sic], tough I know, but needed to stretch out, relax & soak myself …''

Even the names he ascribes to his deliveries are sounding a tad lightweight. He used to bowl deliveries traditionally known as ''flippers'' and ''wrong'uns''. And now … ''Just came up with a new name for the new delivery I've been working on, it's called 'The Disco Ball','' Warne said recently, adding that Hurley has been helping him perfect it.

It seems nothing is off limits, not even the sacred cricket whites. Warne implied recently that he had been donning them for tawdry purposes: ''My future wife @ElizabethHurley loves seeing me dressed up in my cricket whites !!!!!!! Xxx.''

While commercially beneficial, such revelations are posing other problems. The new identity is erasing Warne's old one and, at times, he seems uncomfortable about that. When he gushed of a day spent picking raspberries with Hurley, Warne perhaps sensed it was time to reclaim the narrative.

''I support Chelsea in premier league, saints in AFL, favorite golfer is tiger, favorite food ham and pineapple pizza, favorite drink a VB.''

The fight between Hurley Warne and Warnie Warne is growing more violent. ''Just smashed a family block of chocolate - 'Top Deck','' Warnie Warne said less than a month after ''smashing 2 crispy bacon rolls in Singapore lounge''.

Take that Hurley Warne.

But the alter ego soon replied: ''When you fall in love with someone, their flaws should turn into perfection !!!!!!''

Confusingly, Hurley - the presumed creator of Hurley Warne - has begun vouching for the existence of the caveman-like Warnie Warne.

''@warne888 has made a magnificent fire. All Hail,'' Hurley wrote recently. She has also affirmed her fiance's affection for HP sauce.

When he invited us into his bedroom on Boxing Day, Warnie Warne was quick to point out that he was engaged in the manliest of activities.

''In bed with @ElizabethHurley who is reading, me watching the big test match at the MCG.''

Hurley supported Warnie Warne's version of events. ''Collapsed in bed reading Mapp & Lucia while @warne888 watches the cricket. Bliss.''

He was doing so well. But, as so often happens now, Hurley Warne required the final say.

''Am spending my first Christmas away from Melbourne in 43 years,'' he said, voice presumably quivering.

''I was hoping for a white Christmas … & build [sic] snowmen too - sob!!! X.''

The story The caveman who frets about wrinkles first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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