Magician in wrist movement, enigmatic spinner of cricket ball, the leggie who made leg spin an art, the legend who made tiring Test cricket entertaining, Shane Keith Warne, affectionately called ‘Warnie,’ was an athlete with struggles, successes and controversies.
A blonde leg-spinner with mullet hairdo made his uneventful debut for Australia against India at the famed Sydney Cricket Ground in the morning of 2nd January 1992. His debut tally of 1/150 and debut series tally of 1/228 did not show any sign of what is to come. The debutant named Shane Warne from Melbourne went on to become one of the greatest players and posterboys in the popular game of cricket. Shane Keith Warne, affectionately called ‘Warnie,’ was indeed an out and out leg-spinner, a sorcerer in terms of spinning the cricket ball, a master of mesmerising the batsmen with the swirl of wrist as well as an athlete worth idolising. It is difficult to describe the demise of Warnie in words, as it left fans around the globe in sheer grief. Cricket lovers took time to believe the shocking truth that the spell was really over for the magician who used to deliver jaw-dropping leg breaks, zooters, flippers, straight ones and googlies.
Despite a fade debut performance, the then Aussie skipper Allan Border found flair in Warne. Warne did not disappoint Border at all, just a year later, in 1993, the cricketing fraternity observed a delivery that was no less than a magic. The ball of the century. A delivery that not only thrilled the crowd present at Old Trafford rather thousands of audiences who watched it on TV.
The year was 1993, when ‘struggling’ Warnie came to bowl his first ever delivery in an Ashes Test to English batter Mike Gatting, which later became ‘Ball of the Century’. The turn and seam movement of the ball left Gatting with no words to express. The greatest delivery to be pitched ever in cricket history started the legacy of Warnie. It is to be mentioned here, Mike Gatting was England’s most dependable resistance tool against spin back then. Warne’s skills and geniuses inspired generations to love the game of cricket, especially spin bowling.
The journey of Warne did not start as smoothly as it went through later. In his debut match against India in 1992, he took only one wicket in his 40 over spell. Shane’s brilliance came to limelight for the first time, when he grabbed 7 wickets against the mighty West Indies in 1992. Warne’s latent talent started to bloom after that, from an ordinary leggy to a magician of spinning balls, Warne was gaining applause. Year later in Ashes 1994, Warne sealed his first ever hat trick. As the Aussie dominance started to pile up, Warne was hiking to peak. Against South Africa, the same year, Warne took 12 wickets. It was just the starter to Shane’s magical journey, expectations started to mount over Warne; people were excited about their new cricketing sensation.
In the 1999 Cricket World cup, Warne was recognised with the ‘man of the final’ award for his outstanding 4 for 33, crashing Pakistani batting line-up. His performance of 4/29, against South Africa in the semi-final match was even more gigantic. In addition, he was also jointly the leading wicket taker of that tournament. Unfortunately, in that time, leg-spinners were seen as an expensive option in the ODI format of the game. Warne also had a reputation of not being hard working enough to excel in the fielding discipline of the game, which was getting more demanding. Adjusting to those causes, he was often in and out of the shorter format of the game. He played his last ODI for Australia on 25th January 2003.
Nevertheless, Warne star continued to shine in the Test format despite suffering a one-year ban for doping offenses. He was the first player to achieve 700 Test wickets; he took the highest wicket in a calendar year with 96 wickets in 2005. He has taken 195 wickets from 36 Tests in Ashes, making him the highest wicket taker in the fabled series. He retired from international cricket in 2007 as the highest wicket taker in history of that time with 708 Test wickets in his name. He is also one of the few bowlers to take a 5-wicket haul against every Test-playing nation.
In the 1990s, with Pakistani legend Abdul Qadir at the last leg of his legendary career, leg spin was seen as a dead discipline. Shane Warne alongside India’s Anil Kumble took helm of the art. While Kumble relied more on accuracy and subtle variations, Warne had prodigious turns and variation arsenal to turn eyes over one’s head. Even in unhelpful pitches, Warne could turn the ball both ways. His googlies turned almost as much as his stock deliveries. However, his most lethal variation, the flipper, made him unique among his peers. Pages have been written to dissect and analyse his technique, but very few have broken the enigma.
Warne’s biggest contribution can be seen in not only his technique and records, but also in his impact on future generations who are ruling the game right now. He revived leg spin to an impressive art form. In modern cricket, even in the shortest format T20, wrist spin has become the most coveted addition in a bowling department. In every international or franchise team, Bangladesh may be the only exception, there is a leg spinner or china man ruling over.
Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan is seen as the natural successor of Warnie. Rashid’s impact on world cricket has helped his entire country to Test status. English leggie Adil Rashid helped his team to their maiden World Cup trophy. South Africa’s Imran Tahir and India’s Yuzvendra Chahal became one of the most coveted players in T20 franchises. Adam Zampa helped Australia win the World T20 last year. In Test format Yasir Shah, Danish Kaneria and now Shadab Khan has been the feature spinner for Pakistan. All the above names will unanimously take Shane Warne’s name as their biggest inspiration, and that might be the biggest legacy of Shane Warne.
A leg-spinner, not a conventional rather a sorcerer in terms of spinning the cricket ball, a master of confusing the batsman with the swirl of wrist, an athlete worth idolizing- Shane Keith Warne, Affectionately known as ‘Warnie’. It is difficult to describe the demise of Warnie in words, as it left us in mourning. Cricket lovers cannot believe the spell is over for the magician who used to deliver jaw dropping leg-breaks, zooters, flippers, straight ones or googlies.
The year was 1993, when ‘struggling’ Warnie came to bowl his first ever delivery in an Ashes Test to English batter Mike Gatting, which later became the ‘Ball of Century’. The turn and seam movement of the ball left Gatting with no words to express. The greatest delivery to pitched ever in cricket history. It is to mention here, Mike Gatting was England’s most dependable resistance tool against spin then.
Gatting in an interview later shared his experience saying, “It came down, and I knew it was a leg-break. I didn’t expect it to spin that much. I’m not sure when we often spoke about it that he expected it to spin that much!” His skills and geniuses inspired generations to love the game of cricket especially spin bowling.
Warne coloured his life both on and off the field as a genuine celebrity. Warne was a master manipulator. He had the psychological aura to read opponents’ minds and sometimes through sledging, he tempted rivals. Cricket is a game of patience and perseverance. Warne used this psychological tool in the battle to mark himself advanced from the contenders. As a strong opinionated man he butted heads with his teammates also. His rivalry with Steve Waugh, Arjuna Ranatunga, Marlon Samuels, and Michael Stark often went beyond the line of civility.
Shane Warne looked and acted more like a rockstar than a cricketer. His hair styles were often compared with footballers rather than cricketers. Born with a green eye and a blue eye, thick blonde hair and a wry smile, he had a charismatic and magnetic personality. The moment he took the ball in his hand and started his legendary bowling action, nothing else really mattered. He was a true genius of the game. With him around, be it on the field, in the commentary box or off the field, there was never a dull moment. With Shane Warne gone the world has lost a light that truly shines in people’s hearts and entertains them. Without him, the game of cricket will not be where it is now. He is truly one of those greats whose legacy transcends an entire sport and country.
Talking about game plan and strategy Warne was a master manipulator. He had the psychological aura to read opponents mind and sometimes through sledging, he tempted rivals. Cricket is a game of patience and perseverance. Warne used this psychological tool in the battle to mark himself advanced from the contenders.
The Other side of Warne
The game of Cricket is often introduced as ‘the Gentleman’s Game’. In contrary to such spirit of the game, Shane Warne can be tagged as the ‘bad boy’ of cricket. February 22, 2003, Shane received a 12-month ban from all formats of cricket for inhaling illegal drug substance. Warne created such disturbance in his career, when he was at the peak of his performance and was at the forefront of dominant world champion Australian team. Courtesy of such incident, Warne set to dismiss from cricket prior to the 2003 ICC World Cup. For controversial Warne, drugs were not the sole scandal. Numerous match bookings, inappropriate behaviour on and off the field, women scandal, law breaking, controversial commentary, hate speeches etc. were somewhat typical throughout his career.
In 1994, just when Warne started to gain popularity- along with Mark Waugh, dealt with an Indian bookie against Sri Lanka widely known as the ‘John the Bookmaker’ case. Shane, in an interview in 2016 labelled Steve Waugh as ‘Selfish Cricketer’, which boosted continuous criticism against Warne. While Shane was the vice-captain of the team, in 2000, a British woman reported sexual harassment report against him. Apart from controversies, Warne faced multiple time injuries and had to undergo surgeries.
He was also named alongside Mark Waugh. Both players were accused of taking money from an Indian bookmaker in exchange for sharing sensitive information. The game of Cricket is often introduced as ‘the Gentleman’s Game’. In contrast to such spirit of the game, Shane Warne can be aptly tagged as the ‘bad boy’ of cricket.
He kept his ‘bad boy’ reputation off the field as well. Women, booze, drugs, gambling; Warnie had news with them all. He married model Simone Callahan and had three children with her. The marriage ended after 10 years when Warne’s adultery behaviour was continuously on tabloid pages. He even had to lose vice captaincy of the Australian team after one of his affairs came on to light. He famously dated and was engaged to British born Hollywood star Elizabeth Hurley. However, the engagement was called off due to another revelation of adultery news.
On 4th March 2022, beloved Warnie breathed his last leaving us all shocked. He was discovered unconscious by his travel partner upon getting unresponsive to repeated dinner calls. Despite quick medical help, it was too late to bring Warne back. Thailand police, based on autopsy report, said that his demise was a natural death. What actually happened that night soon became a global matter of interest. People became curious over how a physically fit, professional athlete could embrace such tragic death. Kissana Phathanacharoen, who investigated the crime scene, said in a statement, “Today investigators received the autopsy result, in which the medical opinion is that the cause of death is natural ”.
Thailand Police, based on autopsy report of Shane Warne that, his demise was a natural death. It soon became global matter of interest, what actually happened that night. People became curious over how a physically fit, professional athlete could embrace such tragic death. Kissana Phathanacharoen, who investigated the crime scene, said in a statement, “Today investigators received the autopsy result, in which the medical opinion is that the cause of death is natural”. Warne was discovered unconscious by his travel partner, as Warne was unresponsive to dinner call. Despite quick medical assistances, it was too late to bring Warne back. On March 4, 2022, beloved Warnie left us all! Chief Executive of Sporting News, Tom Hall informed that, Warne was visiting a doctor for some sort of chest pains and shortness of breath, however, his friends knew little of it. Family of Warne reported about previous Asthma and minor heart issues to Thai Police.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a statement declared Warne as ‘one of our nation’s greatest characters’. Australian government and Victorian state government responded immediately and took initiatives promptly by arranging funeral and naming a stand over Shane’s name in Melbourne Cricket Ground. It is Great Southern Stand at MCG to be renamed as ‘Shane Warne Stand’, where he took his 700th Test wicket in 2006 on Boxing Day Test.
Flowers, tributes, wishes, flags and sports shirts were left around Shane’s coffin, as well-wishers gather to pay homage to their beloved persona. People expressed their grief in cloudy heart and tears in memory of Warnie, who literally transcended the sport through talent and personality. As per declaration of Melbourne Premiere Daniel Andrews- a memorial service to take place followed by the family funeral at the MCG.
Shane Warne, throughout his cricketing career, illustrated extraordinary skills and sheer talent. He got his earlier cricketing lessons from Australia Institute of Sports, the academy that was designed to train Olympians. His rise to prominence was a story of wonders, despite his obese physique and constant proclivity for self-destruction. To sign off, it won’t be any exaggeration to note that Warne’s continuous tendency for developing skills and gearing thyself up actually built the foundation of his rise as champion cricketing superstar.