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'Utterly heartbreaking'; 'Can't quite believe it': Tributes flow for Shane Warne, 'the man who made spin cool'

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4th March, 2022
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The global cricket community is in mourning followng the untimely death of Australian legend Shane Warne at the age of 52.

The legendary leg-spinner turned cricket commentator was in Koh Samui, Thailand, when he suffered a suspected heart attack.

Warne’s management released a statement in the early hours of Saturday morning (AEDT) confirming the tragic news, first reported by Fox Cricket.

“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.”

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Warne’s death follows fellow Australian icon Rod Marsh’s passing just hours earlier from a heart attack, in a tragic 24 hours for Australian and world cricket.

Warne had himself posted a tribute to Marsh on his Twitter account just hours before.

Tributes have quickly poured in for the 52-year old from across the cricketing world, with teammate and co-commentator on Fox Cricket Adam Gilchrist, former Indian opener Virender Sehwag and long-time adversaries the Barmy Army among those to pay their respects.

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Gilchrist said it was the highlight oh his career to keep to Warne, a privilege he and his predecessor Ian Healy shared from behind the stumps.

“Numb. The highlight of my cricketing career was to keep wicket to Warnie. Best seat in the house to watch the maestro at work. Have often felt a tad selfish, that Heals and I pretty much exclusively are the only ones who had that thrill and pleasure at Test level. Rip Warnie.”

His former state and Test teammate Damien Fleming saw Warne as a “once in a lifetime cricketer. Charisma. Leg spinner with a fast bowler’s mentality. Hollywood type lifestyle”.

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Test skipper Pat Cummins said the entire team “idolised Warnie growing up for his showmanship, will to win from any position and his incredible skill. He transcended cricket.”

“Warnie was an all time great, a once in a century type cricketer, and his records will live on forever,” he Cummins said from Australia’s team hotel in Islamabad after day one of the first Test in Rawalpindi.

“We all grew up watching Warnie, idolising him, we all had posters on his wall, had his earrings.

“What we loved so much about Warnie was his showmanship, his charisma, his tactics, the way he willed himself and the team around him to will teams around him to win games for Australia, and above all else his incredible skills as a leg-spinner.

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“There’s so many guys in this team and squad who still hold him as a hero, their all-time favourite player.

“The game was never the same after Warnie emerged and the game will never be the same after his passing. Rest in peace, King.”

His many teammates have expressed their grief through social media. Darren Lehmann described Warne as a “fun loving superstar of our game” and said he was “always charismatic, caring and a true friend”.

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Jason Gillespie simply wrote: “Devastated, RIP, mate. Diz” with a broken heart emoji.

Shane Watson added: “I am numb!!! My hero, my mentor, my great friend, Shane Warne is no longer with us. Warnie, the impact you had on this great game and everyone around it is immeasurable. Thank you for being so bloody good to me. I am going to miss you so much. Rest In Peace SK.”

Mark Waugh, who commentated alongside Warne on Fox Cricket for several years, wrote “This just unfathomable to lose another great of our cricket family. Warnie was the ultimate entertainer on and off the field, never a dull moment who lived life to the fullest.Deepest condolences to his loved ones. RIP mate.”

Brett Lee described his great mate and former teammate as the “rock star of cricket”.

“The greatest bowler to play the game ever ! The RockStar of cricket ! Gone too soon,” wrote the former Australian paceman on Twitter.

Windies legend Brian Lara, whose batting ability was one of the few who could match Warne in his prime, echoed the sentiments of bewilderment at the shocking events saying he was speechless.

“I literally don’t know how to sum up this situation. My friend is gone!! We have lost one of the Greatest Sportsmen of all time!!”

Indian icon Sachin Tendulkar wrote on Twitter that his long-term rival was “gone too young”.

“There was never a dull moment with you around, on or off the field. Will always treasure our on-field duels and off-field banter.”

Modern-day Indian star Virat Kohli posted on social media: “Life is so fickle and unpredictable. I cannot process the passing of this great of our sport and also a person I got to know off the field.”

Warne will forever be remembered as one of the most influential, and finest, cricketers in history.

“Shane was one of the most talented and charismatic cricketers we have ever witnessed,” Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley said. 

“He loved cricket, had an extraordinarily astute understanding of the game and his influence and legacy will last for as long as it is played.

“We are in a state of complete shock at his sudden passing.”

ICC CEO Geoff Allardice, who was a teammate of Warne’s for Victoria, said: “He was a true legend of the game, who changed the landscape of cricket by reviving the art of leg spin.

“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.”

Australian comedian Magda Szubanski, who starred alongside Warne in a memorable Kath & Kim episode, remembered a “bright, cheeky spark”.

“I’ve woken in the middle of the night to this terrible terrible news. I’m in complete shock. This is just too sad. Devastating. Incredible to think that bright, cheeky spark has been snuffed out.”

Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, a lifelong cricket fan, was in awe of Warne’s talent.

“I’m grateful to have known him, and to have witnessed his once in a generation talent.”

Hollywood star Hugh Jackman was another from the entertainment world touched by Warne’s legacy. “I’m grateful to have known him, and to have witnessed his once in a generation talent.”

English music star Ed Sheeran said Warne had been an “amazing friend”.

“Shane was the kindest heart, and always went above and beyond to make people feel welcome and special. Such a gentleman. “He gave so many hours and years of his life to bring joy to others, and was such an amazing friend to me. Il bloody miss you mate. Absolutely gutted.”

British PM Boris Johnson paid tribute to Warne’s charity work. “Totally shocked and saddened to hear about Shane Warne – a cricketing genius and one of the nicest guys you could meet, who also did a lot to help disadvantaged kids into sport.”

Arriving on the scene as a chubby bleached-blond 22-year old with a ripping leg-break and a reputation as a troublemaker, he would quickly transform into the lynchpin of Australia’s era of dominance through the 1990s and early 2000s.

Capturing 708 Test wickets at the princely average of 25.41, he was named one of Wisden’s five Cricketers of the Century, the second Australian named after Sir Donald Bradman.

The famous ‘Gatting ball’ – Warne’s first in Test cricket in England – that flummoxed England great Mike Gatting in the first Test of the 1993 Ashes series is known as the ‘Ball of the Century’, and widely regarded as one of the greatest ever bowled.

Gatting told Fox Sports News he was in total shock.

“It was unbelievable when I heard the news that he’d passed away. Devastated to lose such an amazing cricketer at such an early age, very similar to someone like Malcolm Marshall,” he said in reference to the Windies paceman who died aged 41 due to cancer in 1999.

“He inspired huge amounts of youngsters and cricketers alike to come along and watch the game, play the game, take up the game.

“He was just a fabulous man and a fabulous cricketer.”

English fans love him because he was an honest, disciplined cricketer, said Gatting.

“He was a great tactician, he was always up the other end thinking about how to get somebody out, how to do something different. All the while he was having fun. He enjoyed what he did and it came across,” Gatting said.

“He was just an amazing bloke to have in your team. He would bowl his heart out for any team he played in because he wanted to win … but he wouldn’t do it in any way than the best way.

“He would get out there and just bowl people out and do it with a smile on his face. He was an inspiring cricketer and if anybody want to play the game, that’s how it should be played.”

On the Ball of the Century, Gatting said “he never lacked confidence but he just needed a bit more belief”.

“That ball certainly took him to the next level of belief and then from there on in he just kept going upwards and upwards and becoming the inspiration to many.”

Warne played 145 Tests for Australia in a career marked by controversy. He would miss 12 months in 2003 after admitting to taking a banned diuretic; his relationship with captain Steve Waugh never recovered after being dropped during the tour of the West Indies in 1999; and his off-field antics frequently landed himself in hot water, be it with bookmakers or the opposite sex.

But through it all, Warne remained a virtuoso on the cricket field, and it is as the man who reinvigorated the lost art of leg-spin that he will be most fondly remembered by lovers of the game from all walks of life.

English captain Joe Root, on tour in the West Indies, said his team was stunned by the news.

“It’s hit everyone quite hard if I’m being brutally honest. As a kid growing up he was a massive idol of mine and someone you wanted to emulate,” he said.

“The way he could win a game on his own, his skill levels were incredible. I’d have been 14 when the 2005 Ashes was on, and in many ways that series was a massive influence on my career.”

The Marylebone Cricket Club issued a statement to express how it was “deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Honorary Life Member and World Cricket committee member, Shane Warne. Shane was one of the finest cricketers ever to have played the game.”

Following his career, Warne became a well-known, and occasionally controversial, media personality, first with Channel Nine and then with Fox Cricket.

He is survived by his three children, Jackon, Brooke and Summer,  mother and father Bridgette and Keith, and brother Jason. Warne will also live long in the hearts and minds of all who saw him play.

SHANE KEITH WARNE

(September 13, 1969 – March 4, 2022)
* Tests: 145
* Test Wickets: 708 at 25.41
* Test Runs: 3154 at 17.32
* ODIs: 194
* ODI wickets: 293 at 25.73
* ODI runs: 1018 and 13.05
* One of five Wisden Cricketers of 20th century
* Australian Cricket Hall of Fame
* ICC Cricket Hall of Fame
* Sport Australia Hall of Fame
* 1999 World Cup winner
* 1999 World Cup player of the final

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