The King of Spin is dead.
There is so much we can reflect on about Shane Warne. I have many personal memories. I watched a number of games at Lords on my OE, including the first Ashes test of the 1993 series when the Aussies went one up.
I did not see the ‘‘ball of the century’’ but watched the final day and recall the Aussies on the balcony popping corks celebrating their win. Itwas a terrific ball that upended Mike Gatting’s (a renowned player of spin) off stump, spinning from outside leg.
Now recognised as probably the most famous ball bowled in cricket, it launched Shane Warne.
I went to a party years later dressed as Warne — blonde wig, pillow up the jumper to represent his paunch and holding a can of baked beans. Warne had tins of baked beans (and spaghetti) shipped in on a particular Pakistan tour.
Warne was a personality. A prodigious talent. And he made the art of leg spin sexy.
His flipper, in particular, was killer. He became a great tactician and loved the banter. ‘‘What colour is the couch,’’ was one of his great sledges to South African Daryll Cullinan, who allowed Warne into his head and sought psychological advice.
Against New Zealand he contributed with bat and ball. We know he snared 708 test wickets but he also scored more than 3000 test runs and scored more 50s against New Zealand
(5) and his best average (32) than against any other test opponent. Mark Richardson may be remembered for many things but catching Warne out for 99 in Perth may go down as his most famous act. It was Warne’s highest test score.
Before Warne, Richie Benaud was the Aussie champion leg-spinner. Benaud went on to be the world’s most loved commentator. He was polished and professional, neat and tidy, crisp and clear and adored by millions of cricket followers around the world.
Warne was rough and bedraggled, unpredictable and in-your-face, loud and brash and admired for his talent, charisma and diehard attitude.
The two cricketing deities brought their own traits and sit at the highest podium of this great game. Benaud mentored Warne to become the greatest leg spinner of all time but had no influence on his dress, his demeanour or late night antics.
Some will say Warne was a pig. He smoked, he drank, he womanised, he gambled. But his mates on and off the field will tell you he was a larger than life figure that lived life to the full and was generous in many ways.
In my time, the cricket greats have been Botham, Lillie, Richards, Tendulkar, Hadlee and the like. They had an aura and a swagger and did things others couldn’t. Shane Warne was one of this band.
I still picture this slightly podgy, earring-adorned blond bombshell tossing the ball to places no-one had before. And reforming the game of cricket for the better.
He left the game in better place than when he arrived and for that, Shane Keith Warne, I thank you.
RIP Warney. Long live the King.
- Ralph Davies is the general manager of Headfirst Travel and the chairman of the North Otago Rugby Supporters Club