Ashraf Ali Siddiqui mourns an iconic sportsman
The demise of Shane Warne was the biggest name in cricket and his reference elicited great excitement. This charismatic sportsman from Melbourne revolutionised spin bowling and made it into a potent cricketing weapon. Being a genius he came with flaws not least in controversies involving drugs, bookmakers and a complicated personal life that greatly tarnished his reputation but there was hardly any doubt about his contribution to the game. He was the most recognisable figure worldwide that cricket has ever produced and his fame was recognised by all and sundry.
Shane Warne broke into the arena with his immortal delivery to Mike Gatting at Old Trafford in 1993 that made the international cricketing world stand up and take notice. It was the very first ball this peroxide blonde larrikin who did not exactly look like a modern Test cricketer, not even in the less professional era of the 1990s, had delivered in a Test and he did not stop there as he soon became a mortal tormentor to the batsmen of every hue and colour.
He burst open in an era when leg-spin had become a lost art in an age of pace and Warne actually revived this particular bowling skill. He would talk about his many new weapons, his ‘zooter’ and whatever other names he could dream up for his supposed new inventions. When in truth he would take the bulk of his wickets with relentlessly accurate leg-spin with few variations. He however became a thorn in the side of the establishment with his very individualistic approach to cricket and life. The cricketing public, in the main, loved him for that. They loved his style. They loved his bravado and his aura.
Warne, who has died on holiday in Thailand from a heart attack, packed a lot into his 52 years and was about far more than statistics but it would be wrong not to take a moment to ponder the sheer scale of his cricketing achievements. He took 708 wickets in his 145 Tests, most of them at a time when Australia ruled the cricketing world and a further 293 in 194 one-day internationals. And he would tell you that tally would have run into thousands if DRS had been around when he played. And he was right, too. In modern cricket he would have run amok even more than he did. Warne was rated great because his wickets defined not only the best of cricket but also an entire generation. He had a far wider appeal and his wickets were taken conventionally in an aesthetically delightful manner.
Demise of Shane Warne endlessly repeatable action meant he could bowl marathon spells and such was his accuracy that, alongside being a demon attacking weapon, he was also parsimonious in terms of leaking runs – another unusual aspect for a spinner that made him effective in one-day games. It was not all plain sailing, however, as in 2003 he failed a doping test for a diuretic and was banned from all cricket for a year – ruling him out of Australia’s defence of the World Cup. He returned from the layoff refreshed and fit and continued to take big hauls as he became the game’s all-time leading wicket-taker in a cat-and-mouse competition with Muralitharan. Acquiring a taste for broadcasting during his ban year, Warne became a hugely respected pundit after his retirement, never happier than when analysing the delivery of the latest spinner to follow in his footsteps. TW