“I wasn’t perfect. I love loud music. I smoked. I drank. I bowled a bit of leg-spin. That was me.” That’s how Shane Warne described himself in his documentary ‘Shane’, released a couple of months earlier.
‘King’, as he is popularly called by his teammates, opponents and fans all over the world, died yesterday at 52 years, due to what is reported to be a heart attack.
His sudden demise has shocked the whole cricketing world. He wasn’t only one of the greatest leg spinners the world has ever seen, but also a popular person outside the field. His friends have often said that he lived his life “king size”.
His 15-year-long career didn’t start on a bright note as he went for plenty of runs in his debut test against India. But he wasn’t one to give up easily. He has been like that since he was a child. He wanted to play the AFL, but was dropped by his football club. In his documentary, he admits that he was not the best for the big league. In any case, one game’s loss was another game’s gain.
He was the first bowler to pick 700 test wickets. However, stats don’t define him. What defines him is his attitude towards the game. Every ball he bowled was a spectacle in itself. It wasn’t only the wickets he took, which were a sign of pure genius, but also the way he set the batters up that defined his greatness.
His life was not a smooth ride either, and was filled with controversies. But he always managed to come back stronger. Warne was constantly booed by the English crowd in the 2005 Ashes for his off-field behaviour, but that didn’t affect the man as he still got 40 wickets in the series. It was his best performance. His teammates have always asserted that he wasn’t one to give up easily. Mark Nicholas sums it up nicely: “You were playing the man, and not the ball.”
Brydon Coverdale, an author, describing Shane Warne’s game, noted, “He redefined his art. He made leg spin cool. He changed the game. The most influential cricketer of my lifetime.”
Shane Warne inspired many young leg spinners. Few leg spinners in the world would disagree that Warne was the reason they picked up leg spin.
ICC chief executive Geoff Allardice, summarising Warne’s career after his death, said, “His larger-than-life personality, extraordinary skill and immense cricketing intellect ensured fans were glued to their seats whenever he was involved in a game.”
“He also established a successful career in the commentary box, where his insightful and forthright views on the game made him one of the first-choice commentators for broadcasters in most cricketing countries,” Allardice added.
Shane has admitted himself that he wouldn’t have liked to face himself because he was “nasty”.
For people who have seen Shane bowl, they have immense memories to live with. Upcoming generations that would want to become leg spinners, will however, have to go on YouTube to watch his videos to learn and gasp at the pure genius of the man.
“One of my strengths on the field is I can intimidate people. Whether it be a word, whether it is to grab a bit of silence, whether it is to eyeball someone, whether it was a little sledge, I was a man on a mission. I wasn’t taking any prisoners.”
– Shane Warne