There is no certainty in life other than death and no age too old to die. On the tragic Friday of March 4, the cricketing world’s beloved ‘King’ Shane Warne passed away due to a suspected cardiac arrest, sending shock and sadness through not just his wide fanbase but the entire sporting fraternity. ‘Warney’ as he was affectionately called, lived larger than life and on his terms and he left the world much the same way at the young age of 52.
An all-time great, Warne was a once-in-a-century-type cricketer whose feats and records will live on forever. But he was a wild child and not many know that even before his international debut in 1992, Shane Warne had already become controversial as he was released from the Australian Cricket Academy in 1990 for disciplinary reasons. However, the wild child in him never got in the way of his cricketing genius. Despite his unorthodox actions and lifestyle, even an outline of Warne’s exploits reflects his on-field excellence.
Beyond his showmanship and charisma, the chubby genius from Victoria in Australia was an incredibly skillful leg-spinner. His leg-spinning wizardry helped him announce himself on the global scene with a delivery dubbed as the ‘Ball of the Century’. Anyone who follows cricket can hardly forget the way Warne bamboozled Mike Gatting at Old Trafford back in the early 1990s with an unplayable delivery that pitched well outside the leg stump but ended up shattering the off-stump!!
Undoubtedly, Warne was a leg spinner par excellence. We’ve seen Anil Kumble, Abdul Qadir, Sivaramakrishna and a host of others in recent decades but none spun the ball as much and with as much guile as Warne. His repertoire included everything from a googly, a top spinner, a ripper, a slow drifter and several others of mesmerising quality. But what set him apart was his ability to think the batsman out. Playing upon the weaknesses of batsmen, Warne could serve something out of the ordinary all the time, making countless batsmen commit hara-kiri and fall into his trap.
Across his career, which started in 1992 and lasted for 15 years, Warne played 145 tests and took 708 wickets. This puts him second on the all-time list of wicket-takers, below only Sri Lankan Muralitharan and ensures that he will always be one of cricket’s most iconic figures. In limited-overs cricket, Warne played a critical role in Australia’s triumph in the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1999, where he won the ‘man of the match in both the semi-final and the final.
While being controversy’s favorite child, which even led to a drug ban just before the ODI World Cup in 2003, Warne’s mental strength and exquisite leg-breaks enabled him to stage a brilliant comeback in 2004 after a 12-month hiatus. Then came his splendid Ashes series in 2005 – the remarkable year that saw him create the world record of 96 Test wickets in a single year that still stands unsurpassed. Warne would ultimately end up taking 198 wickets against England and has more Ashes wickets than anyone else.
Besides his exploits on the field, Warne was known for his deep understanding of the game and his tactical brilliance. Not surprisingly, he is widely regarded as ‘the best captain Australia never had’ for the way he just willed himself and the team around him to win games from hopeless situations.
After his retirement, Warne famously led the Rajasthan Royals side to the IPL title in the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2008. The Aussie leader was instrumental in taking the underdogs Rajasthan Royals to victory over tournament favourites Chennai Super Kings, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni. In addition to his tactical excellence, Warne mentored several young cricketers during the time he played for the team and became a crowd favourite in Jaipur.
Fittingly, hours after Warne’s death, Ravindra Jadeja hit a brilliant test century in Mohali – almost as a special tribute to the Aussie Superstar who spotted his talent during his stint with the Royals side! Not surprisingly, even Rajasthan Royals paid a heartfelt tribute to their ‘first Royal’ Shane Warne’ and called him a leader who “turned underdogs into champions. A mentor who turned everything he touched into gold.”
Beyond being the world’s greatest wrist spinner and an outstanding leader of men, Warne became one of cricket’s most witty and astute observers after he retired and commentated around the world. A popular figure in the commentary box, he created a loyal audience with Sky Sports in England and Fox Sports back home over the past decade. As one of the sharpest cricketing brains, Warne was known for his predictions as a commentator and even his co-commentators would ask him to predict the outcome of particular deliveries – and more often than not, he would come up with spot-on predictions, a testimony to Warney’s incisive reading of the game at all times.
As the cricketing world mourns his demise, his memories and feats will remain an epic and endearing chapter of cricket history. Warne’s sudden departure is a cruel blow for experts and millions of fans as he still had a lot to contribute as one of the finest thinkers of the game!