Farewell Shane Warne

Yesterday, Rod Marsh died. That was a shock. He was the wicket-keeper for the Australian cricket team from 1970 to 1984 – basically I never knew any other wicket-keeper for almost my entire childhood. He was part of the legendary trio with Greg Chappell and Dennis Lillee who cemented my love for the sport from as soon as I watched it. Losing Marsh was a shock.

But I woke up this morning to the news that Shane Warne had also died of a heart attack, late yesterday. Marsh was a legend in the sport of cricket. Shane Warne was an absolute, unrestrained Force of Nature.

Shane Warne came along in the next generation of cricketers after Marsh. Cricket was a sport dominated by batsmen and by fast bowlers. Suddenly, here was this fresh-faced blond kid who seemed to eschew any sort of fitness routine that a professional sports player should maintain. He bowled leg spin – a style of bowling that had gone out of fashion before I was born. I’d never seen it before. It was new and it was weird, and oddly captivating.

In his first game against the Old Enemy, England, Warne awaited his chance to prove himself. The very first ball he bowled was to Mike Gatting. That one delivery changed everything. Warne worked a miracle, spinning the ball off the pitch with such ferocity that Gatting could do nothing but watch it and be amazed when it hit his wicket. It was the Ball of the Century – a single delivery so significant that it has its very own Wikipedia page.

Shane Warne was on his way to a record-breaking 708 Test wickets, revitalising a bowling style that most people considered dead. Soon kids on the streets of London, Sydney, and Mumbai were copying Warne’s style, and a new generation of leg spin bowlers was born. Warne single-handedly revolutionised the game of cricket more than any other player since World War II.

He was astonishing to watch. I feel privileged to have grown up watching cricket in the era that Shane Warne played. He was a flawed personality off the field, not a great role model. But on the field… Every time he came up to bowl in a game, it was electrifying, like lightning about to strike.

Heart attack at age 52. Far too young for a legend.

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