Shane Warne, cricketing legend, dies aged 52

Shane Warne, cricketing legend, dies aged 52

Shane Warne, one of the greatest cricketers of all time and a larger-than-life figure on and off the pitch, died in Thailand on Friday. He was 52 years old.

The cause was suspected to be a heart attack, his management company said in a statement.

Warne was a bowler, the equivalent of a baseball pitcher. He was a master of spin, balls that don’t come fast but twist and turn, potentially bamboozling the batsman. And few drummers have fooled more drummers than Warne.

Playing for Australia from the age of 22, Warne took 708 wickets in multi-day Test matches and added 293 in one-day matches, making him one of only two players to win 1,000 international ticket offices, alongside Muttiah Muralitharan from Sri Lanka. For much of this period, Australia were the best team in the world, regularly beating England, India, West Indies and South Africa.

The specific type of balls he threw, known as leg spin, was considered outdated by the time he arrived on the scene, when fast bowlers were all the rage. But his success with them, though difficult for others to replicate, helped revive what was becoming a lost art.

Warne was not known as a batsman, and he never scored an international century, 100 runs in a single inning, although he did once score a frustrating 99. But his longevity meant he scored more points in total than all other players under a century.

The most memorable ball he played was one of his first. In the 1993 Ashes series between Australia and England, 23-year-old Warne was brought up to face England batsman Mike Gatting. His first match ball veered sharply to the left, hitting the wicket and leaving Gatting completely perplexed.

The suddenness of Gatting’s dismissal, the physics-defying movement of the ball, and the youth and inexperience of the man who threw it made it a famous cricketing moment. It has since been dubbed the “prom of the century” and there are few candidates to rival it.

In 2000, the Wisden cricket annual, a venerable sports columnist, selected Warne as one of the five best cricketers of the century. Still, he continued to play for Australia for seven years and later played for club cricket in India and elsewhere.

In 2015, aged 46, he brought a team of retired players to the United States to promote the sport, nearly filling CitiField in Queens with cricket enthusiasts excited to see their sport in a country that is not known to adopt it. The game was Twenty20 cricket, a faster-paced version of the sometimes sleepy sport that continues to grow in popularity. Warne was one of those who adopted him.

“Everyone has this preconceived notion of what cricket is,” Warne said at the time. “A five-day test match, no result, like a yawn.” He called Twenty20 “the rock ‘n’ roll version – you don’t have time to think.”

His post-cricket career also included poker games like the World Series of Poker and commentary on cricket matches. Last summer he coached London Spirit, an English Twenty20 side.

Off the pitch, Warne also had a knack for grabbing headlines. In 2003, he was suspended from sports after testing positive for a banned diuretic, which he said he used simply to lose weight to look better. His love life, including a rocky relationship and eventual divorce with his wife, Simone Callahan, and romance with actress Elizabeth Hurley, has been gobbled up by tabloids from Sydney to London. He is survived by three children, Brooke, Jackson and Summer.

In one recently released documentary of his life, “Shane”, Warne said, “I like loud music, I smoked, I drank, I did a little leg rotation. That’s me.”