Shane Warne was an entertainer. The Australian cricket legend was a match-winner and a crowd-puller. In the course of a glittering career, Shane Warne made leg-spin bowling look sexy. Fans across the world paid good money to watch him bowl. Warne’s unique approach to the crease before he delivered his gems, was a sight to behold.
Shane Warne, one of the greatest to have ever played the game, is no more. He died of a suspected heart attack on March 4. The cricket fraternity was shell shocked. Not many hours before his death, Warne had paid his respects to another legend of Australian cricket Rodney Marsh, who had also died of a heart attack.
There was a general sense of excitement when Shane Warne burst on to the international scene back in 1992. He was chubby, yes but his explosive leg spin left the world bewildered. Could any man work that kind of magic with a cricket ball in hand? Shane Warne could. Ask Mike Gatting.
In 1993, Shane Warne made the globe sit up and take notice of his prowess when he bowled Gatting with a ball which landed outside leg-stump and rattled the off-stump. That happens to be THE most famous ball ever bowled in the annals of the game.
For the next 14 years, Shane Warne made leg-spin look good again. It was thought to be a dying form of art when he started his career but Warne’s intervention meant more and more young cricketers wanted to take it up. Kids bowling with Shane Warne’s walk, a skip and jump became a common sight in backyards the world over.
BOND FOR THE AGES: THE SACHIN-WARNE DUEL
There were intriguing battles along the way. Shane Warne’s rivalry with Sachin Tendulkar is well documented. The two men were great friends off the field but on it, the two never gave an inch. In 1998, after Sachin Tendulkar had destroyed Australia in the Test series at home and then in the tri-series in Sharjah, Warne said he had nightmares of the Master Blaster coming down the track to hit him for sixes. No batsman had tacked Warne’s skills like Tendulkar but the two went on to form a life-long friendship. The greatest batsman and the greatest bowler of the age had formed a bond for the ages.
Shane Warne was a vital cog in the wheel for Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting. Warne’s guile and charisma drew crowds as Australia won World Cups, Ashes and Test series in every corner of the world. Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and Shane Warne formed the most feared bowling attack of the era. Such was Warne’s domination that Stuart McGill, who would have been the first choice leg-spinner in any other international team, had to be content with only a handful of Tests in his career.
However, Shane Warne also grabbed the headlines for reasons other than his cricket craft. Shortly after his debut for Australia, he was accused of dealing with a bookie and he was spotted smoking during a restrictive contract. Besides, his affairs with women eventually ended his marriage before he got engaged to the British actress Liz Hurley. However, Hurley called off the engagement after Warne’s affair with a porn star came to light.
Shane Warne’s darkest moment came in 2003 when he was banned for a year after testing positive for a banned substance. Consequently, he missed out on the World Cup which Australia won convincingly.
REVERED AND ADMIRED BY HIS OPPONENTS
Bond for the ages: Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar (AFP Photo)
Shane Warne was far from the perfect man and husband. But his art, his cricketing powers and passion for the game, made him a household name. Over 15 years after his last match for Australia, Warne was revered and admired by his opponents at the time and generations of cricketers who only ever watched him ply his trade on TV screens.
Famously outspoken, Shane Warne formed long time friendships with some of the charismatic cricketers in the world. Some of his own teammates maybe did not see eye-to-eye with Warne on certain matters but there was no denying that the blond haired leg-spinner left lasting impressions few could ever achieve as a cricketer.