Australia cricket legend and the greatest leg-spinner of all time, Shane Warne or ‘Warnie’ as he was fondly called, has died, aged 52.
Warne’s management released a brief statement a few minutes ago Indian time, saying that he passed away in Koh Samui, Thailand, of a suspected heart attack. “Shane was found unresponsive in his villa and despite the best efforts of medical staff, he could not be revived,” the statement reads. “The family requests privacy at this time and will provide further details in due course.”
Barely 12 hours ago (Indian time), Warne was tweeting his condolences at the death of fellow Aussie great Rodney Marsh – considered among the finest wicketkeepers in the history of cricket – who also died of heart failure in an Adelaide hospital on Friday, aged 74.
Now, social media is gradually filling up with messages for Warne as devastated fans and fellow cricketers from all parts of the world learn of his passing. Cutting across age and national barriers, cricketers past and present, fans, cricket administrators, and commentators have been pouring out their grief on various social media platforms.
In a career as magical as it was occasionally controversial, Warne notched up an astonishing number of milestones. Widely considered one of the greatest bowlers in cricket history, Warne was named one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in the 1994 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. He was also Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World in 1997 (Notional Winner), but was banned from the sport in 2003 for testing positive for a prohibited substance. Following the ban, he was named Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World for 2004 in the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2005. In 2000, he was selected by a panel of cricket experts as one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century, the only specialist bowler to make the list, and the only one still playing at the time. He officially retired from all forms of cricket in July 2013.
In between, he captained the Australian one-day international squad for 11 matches, and played domestic cricket for his home state of Victoria and English county side Hampshire, who he captained for three seasons from 2005-07. Warne played his first Test match in 1992 and took over 1,000 international wickets (in Tests and ODIs), second only to Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan. In fact, Warne’s 708 Test wickets was the record for most wickets in Test cricket until it was broken by Muralitharan on December 3, 2007.
A useful lower-order batsman, Warne was also the only player to have scored more than 3,000 Test runs without a career century. However, his career was plagued by off-field scandals, including a ban from cricket for testing positive for a banned substance, charges of damaging the sport by accepting money from bookies, drinking binges, and sexual escapades.
He retired from international cricket in January 2007, at the end of Australia’s 5–0 Ashes victory over England. Following his retirement, Warne played a full season at Hampshire in 2007, and was scheduled to appear in the 2008 season, but in March of that year, he announced his retirement from first-class cricket to “spend more time pursuing interests outside of cricket”.
Nonetheless, he played in the first four seasons (2008–11) of the Indian Premier League for the Rajasthan Royals, where he was both captain and coach, and led his inexperienced team to victory against Chennai Super Kings in the final of the 2008 season. In February 2018, Rajasthan Royals appointed Warne as their team mentor for IPL 2018.
Typical of his contrasting nature, Shane Warne earned the respect of the world when, in 2020, he auctioned off his precious Baggy Green (the official Australian team Test cap) to raise money for victims of Australia’s devastating bushfires. “The impact these devastating fires are having on so many people is unthinkable and has touched us all,” Warne tweeted at the time. “I hope my baggy green can raise some significant funds to help all those people who are in desperate need.” As it turned out, the cap was auctioned for a little over $1 million, with the buyer saying it was to become a permanent exhibit at the Bradman Museum in Bowral, New South Wales.