The leg-spin great retired from international cricket in January 2007 and, after four years in the Indian domestic T20, he felt his on-field career had finally ended. But Australian cricket’s biggest drawcard since Don Bradman has leapt at the chance to help Cricket Australia kick-start the new BBL.

Looking remarkably lean and fit, Warne can’t wait to get out onto the MCG again for his team’s opening clash with Sydney Thunder on December 17. And in the crowd will be his three children and fiancee Liz Hurley.

“I’m in such good shape at the moment,” Warne said on Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t be going into this and playing all nine games hopefully (including a semi-final and final) without a sense of confidence in my ability that I can actually go out there and make a difference.”

Warne fielded several offers including one from Melbourne Renegades, who expressed their disappointment on Tuesday at missing out on his signature.

“I’m a young 42 at the moment. Let’s just see how it goes this year and we’ll take it from there,” added Warne, leaving open the possibility of playing in 2012-13.

One of Wisden’s five cricketers of the 20th century, Warne remains a competitor at heart. He didn’t want to sign a two-game deal and simply provide a “show-biz” element to the BBL. He wanted to do it properly.

Warne’s Indian Premier League figures in 2011 indicate there’s still some magic left, after taking 13 wickets at 22.84 and conceding 6.31 runs per over.

“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I could be pulling my weight, being able to go out there and change the course of a game,” he said.

“It has got nothing to do with money. If it was something to do with money, I would be still playing in the IPL.

“My kids who are 14, 12 and 10 can’t really remember dad playing cricket that much. For my kids and Elizabeth to come out and see me playing cricket here at the MCG will be pretty special.

“My body is functioning very, very well. I’m injury-free. I feel fresh.”

The Stars will host the Renegades in their inaugural derby clash at the MCG on January 7, which is also the final day of the second Test between Australia and India at the SCG.

While it’s doubtful whether a Sydney Test can compete with the star power of Warne, the man himself says T20 cricket can peacefully co-exist with the five-day game.

“There’s a place for Twenty20, Test cricket and one-day cricket at the moment. It’s just finding that right balance and not doing too much of each,” Warne said. “I don’t see a conflict in that at all.

“It will be a great summer of cricket. It is a national sport and one of Australia’s favourite sports so we’ve got to keep those kids interested at grass roots.”