Written by: Prithvi (Puneite_)
“How in the world did he just do that ?” “how does one play that ?” This is what Shane Warne did to you. He left the viewers in awe and the batsman in utter disbelief. Leg-spin was a dying art and then came a blonde young man who took it to an entirely new level. A dying art was transformed into an absolute spectacle.
The cricketing world had legends like Abdul Qadir and Richie Benaud who kept the art alive through the years, but it was Warne who brought a whole new altitude to the craft that outwitted many wise batters back then. Warne got his first chance to wear the baggy green in the New Year’s Test at Sydney in 1992. He had an outing to forget as he was sent on a leather hunt by Ravi Shastri and Sachin Tendulkar. He registered his first breakthrough performance with a 7-wicket haul against West Indies in the 2nd innings at MCG and further cemented his place in the side by scalping 17 wickets on the NZ tour. However, his greatest challenge awaited him: THE ASHES.
It was June 1993, the 2nd day of the 1st Ashes Test at Old Trafford. Warne bowled a delivery to Mike Gatting after lunch that made him an overnight sensation. That delivery came to be known as the “Ball of the Century”. It was just the beginning of his domination in the Ashes, and he eventually ended up as the biggest oppressor of England with a total 195 wickets which is an all-time record.
It was during Warne’s rise that Australia achieved some of their greatest accomplishments from 1995-2007, including 16 consecutive Test wins, 3 ODI World Cups, and unbeaten streak of Test series at home from 1993-2007. His ODI career was ended abruptly in 2003 when he was charged with consuming a banned substance and led to a 1-year suspension. His heroics in Tests somewhat obscure his genius in shorter formats. It was he who turned around 2 crucial World Cup semi-finals in 1996 and 1999 and subsequently delivered a match-winning spell in the 1999 Finals making him the only player in the history of the world cup to win three Man of the Match awards.
In 2007, he retired from International cricket after a 5-0 ashes victory, but he still had plenty to give. Often referred to as the best captain Australia never had, he led the Rajasthan Royals to victory in the first edition of the Indian Premier League.
Warne was one of the fiercest competitors on the field. He played the game hard and always tried to get under the skin of the opposition. There was one common sight after any batter reached a milestone against Australia- he was always the first one to applaud and congratulate the batsman. The flood of tributes for him narrating multiple examples of his hospitability and generous gestures indicate that he was always there for his teammates and friends. “Warne lived more in his life than most people would do in 20” quoted McGrath. A king by any definition, Shane lived life to the fullest and was the favorite child of controversy.
We all wanted to be Warne. Wrist bands, spike hair, that nonchalant walk to the crease, imitating his action by holding a rubber ball and flexing the tongue while delivering. Many childhoods have been spent doing this. Shane Warne is basically the name of almost everyone who bowls spin in gully cricket. We have lost one of the greatest players to have played this beautiful game. His name will forever be etched in annals of history. It’s as if the entire childhood disappeared in an instant.