Whats Happening Between Shane Warne And Jemima Khan?

Jacqueline Maley

The English beauty may seem an unlikely match for Shane Warne, but she has always bucked expectations, writes Jacqueline Maley in London.

Even though he has retired from international cricket, the world's (for now) highest-ever wicket taker's love life is still the subject of great interest. Shane Warne's libidinous trail allegedly features a French backpacker he met in Bondi, an English nurse, a famously hairy-backed South African woman and two British glamour models.

If the latest reports are to be believed, that list has now expanded to include Jemima Khan, ex-wife of Imran Khan, mother-of-two, UNICEF ambassador and jewel of the English aristocracy.

Woman's Day last week "revealed" that it was Warne's affair with Khan that thwarted his most recent attempt to reconcile with his ex-wife, Simone Callahan. It was the latest allegation in the unedifying slanging match the couple has been having in public.

Warne issued a swift denial.

"There's absolutely no truth in that one whatsoever," he told reporters in Melbourne. "We're good friends, friends with the family and that's it. Hopefully that all clears it up with you guys."

Jemima's mother, Lady Annabel Goldsmith, also dismissed the rumour.

If the spin bowler is stepping out with Khan, it would be quite a conquest, even for so prolific a womaniser as our Shane.

Khan, who recently split with the actor Hugh Grant, is an aristocratic blue blood with exotic lineage, a noted beauty admired for her charity work, and so posh that it was reported that she dumped the foppish Hugh Grant because he was "too middle class" for her.

Warne and Khan do know each other. The Daily Mail has reported that the pair met when Jemima's brother, environmentalist Zac Goldsmith, hosted a poker night to which he invited Warne.

In March, Warne and Khan were spotted partying together at London's fashionable Cuckoo Club, even leaving together in Khan's car. In June, they co-hosted a Cricket Unites for Children charity event for UNICEF. Photos of the pair appear on the UNICEF website.

The two may seem an odd love match, but Khan has spent her life bucking expectations.

During her late teens and early 20s, she was a fixture of London's aristocratic social circuit. Then, at 22, she did something quite extraordinary, particularly for a girl with Jewish heritage - she married Imran Khan, an Islamic Pakistani cricketer with an almost God-like status in his home country, converted to Islam and moved to Pakistan.

While her aristocratic "It girl" peers were ploughing through toffy boyfriends, Khan was busy raising her two sons with Khan: Suleiman, 10 and Qasim, 8. And as her contemporaries were finishing their Oxbridge degrees, she was faithfully supporting her husband's political campaign and doing charity work in Pakistani hospitals.

But when you consider Khan's extraordinary family background, her contrary life choices shift into context.

When she was born in 1974, Khan's parents were married, but not to each other. Her father, Sir James Goldsmith, was a playboy billionaire who had a customised Boeing 757 jet and eccentric political views. Her mother, the impressively-named Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart, was a socialite who had an exclusive members-only nightclub named after her.

The birth of Jemima's younger brother Zac followed in 1975, and both parents moved to divorce their respective spouses. They married each other in 1978 and had a second son, Ben, in 1980.

The marriage was anything but conventional - as Sir James famously said: "When you marry your mistress, you create a vacancy."

In 1981 he quit the family, running away to New York with one of his lovers. Khan and her brothers were raised by her mother in Surrey.

In 1993, she went to Bristol University to do an English degree, but threw in her studies two years later when she met Imran Khan. At 42, he was twice her age, and had a fearsome reputation with women, but she was undaunted and married him soon after they began their relationship.

Over the years of her marriage to Imran, Khan made an enormous effort to conform to his culture. She became a Muslim, wore traditional Pakistani clothes, learnt Urdu and lived in the proper Pakistani way, sharing a house with her in-laws. She even changed her name to Haiqa.

"I think the fact that I was very young made it easier to adjust and fit in. Certainly, I couldn't make a change like that now," Khan told a Times reporter in 2005, after her divorce.

With her Jewish heritage (her paternal grandfather was Jewish), Jemima was a political liability to her husband, who was trying to win seats as leader of the Movement for Justice party, against a tide of Muslim extremism.

She was constantly attacked in the press and in the end she grew tired of being a politician's wife. "It was lonely as he was away a lot," she later said in a rare interview, given to promote her charity work.

In 2003 she returned to the UK, taking her sons with her. In 2004 the couple announced their divorce. She was linked with Hugh Grant a few months afterwards.

Tabloid reports claimed that Grant was as commitment-phobic in real life as the characters he played on screen, and Khan grew fed up.

If that truly is the case, she will probably want to give Shane Warne a wide berth.

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