Cricket

Farewell, Shane Warne, The Leggie Who Weaved Magic With Cricket Ball

Farewell, Shane Warne, The Leggie Who Weaved Magic With Cricket Ball

Shane Warne, arguably the greatest spinner of all time and one of the most flamboyant characters to ever play the game, died Friday following a suspected heart attack in Thailand, leaving the entire cricket fraternity shocked. He was only 52 years old. (More cricket news)

Cricketers past and present, as well as fans, have struggled to come to terms with his sudden demise, given that just 12 hours ago Warne tweeted to express his grief over the death of a fellow Australian legend, Rod Marsh. Warne looked in fine form a fortnight ago commentating during a T20I series against Sri Lanka in Australia.

Warne, who took 708 wickets in 145 Tests he bowled for Australia between 1992 and 2007, was the second most prolific bowler in the annals of cricket behind only Sri Lankan legend Muttiah Muralitharan (800). In the ODIs too, he had an impressive record with a total of 293 wickets in 194 matches.

More than wickets, however, Warne was about the impact he created not just with the ball, but his commanding presence on the pitch. He didn’t bowl like any other spinner. He wove magic with it. After all, who can forget his “century ball” he conjured up to roll England batsman Mike Gatting around his legs in his first-ever Ashes Test at Old Trafford on June 4, 1993?

This “ball of the century” was not a one-off moment of brilliance. He produced similar deliveries time and time again, one of them castling South African fly-half Herschelle Gibbs in a 1999 ICC ODI World Cup (WC) semi-final.

The dismissal turned the game upside down and Australia went on to equalize this epic match which helped them into the final. In the final, Warne had the Pakistani batsmen dancing to his spinning deliveries to hand Australia their second ODI WC crown. He was named player of the match in the semi-finals and the final.

Warne has always been an England executioner at home and away in the Ashes. He held the record for most wickets in Ashes history with a total of 195 scalps in 36 Tests. Even in the 2005 series which England won (the only Ashes series where Warne finished on the losing side) after a climactic battle, he topped the bowling charts with 40 wickets at an average of 19.92.

Warne will also be remembered for his iconic duel on the pitch with Indian cricketer great Sachin Tendulkar. Although Tendulkar often got the better of him, he never lost his competitive spirit and played an important role in Australia’s historic Test series victory in India in 2004.

Besides being a quintessential leggie, Warne was a master tactician. Many pundits believe he was the best captain Australia ever had. He gave a glimpse of his leadership talent in 2008 when he captained and coached the Rajasthan Royals to the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) title. Even after retiring from cricket, he carved out a place for himself as an astute commentator and pundit.

Warne is no more, but his deeds will keep his name alive forever. Farewell, Wizard of Oz.

PS: In what you might call a morbid coincidence, this was the second time Australia had lost two of their cricketing legends in the space of 24 hours in the past six months. Last year, former offie Ashley Mallett died on October 29 and the next day former rhythm legend Alan Davidson breathed his last. And still today, two legends have definitively left the world in less than 24 hours.

(Ankit Kumar Singh is a journalist turned media scholar. Opinions are personal)