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Ahead of his memorial, Clancy Aboud reflects on the life and memory of the King of Spin, Shane Warne.
Wisden (the UK Cricket Bible) top 5 cricketers of all time are as follows:
Sir Donald Bradman
Sir Garfield Sobers
Sir Jack Hobbs
Sir Vivian Richards
“Perhaps my knighthood has been lost in the post. Sir Shane Warne – it has quite a ring to it don’t you think?”
Sport needs personalities. We switch on our televisions to pay witness to the displays of talent on the court, the field or the pitch. It develops into its own sort of addiction that has been woven so deeply into the fabric of Australian culture. However we often find ourselves coming back for the characters that we as a country fall in love with. So on occasions where tragedies like this occur, no wonder this sports mad nation collectively stops, mourning together over the loss of one of our greats. It’s the sort of news that in years to come, you’ll remember where you were when you found out, how you heard it, the way it made you feel.
As the days go on, more details have emerged surrounding the 52 year-old’s sudden death from a heart attack. The cricketing great was found unresponsive by his associate and friend Andrew Neophitou in a Koh Samui villa. 20 minutes of CPR before the ambulance arrived wasn’t enough to save the star and within 45 minutes, he was pronounced dead. Within the space of 24 hours, just like that, two of our cricketing greats were gone, with the news of Rod Marsh’s passing coming out earlier that day. Fans continue to swarm the MCG to pay tribute to Warne’s life. Tributes of flowers, servo meat pies, VB’s, Winnie Blues and canned baked beans have flooded the stadium.
He was your average Aussie larrikin which made for so much of his appeal. Described as your everyday bloke… who just so happened to be a magician with the red leather in hand. “I liked loud music. I smoked, I drank and I bowled a bit of leg spin”. It’s funny to think that cricket wasn’t his first love, setting out to pursue any young Melbourne boy’s AFL dream, with an admiration for the competitiveness and physicality of the game. This passion took Warne to St Kilda’s under-19 side where he earned the nickname “Hollywood” from big-brother figure and club captain, Trevor Barker. It’s easy to see how Warne might’ve taken inspiration from Barker when it came to crafting his own image. Lacking the necessary pace, Warnie was dropped from the squad at the start of the 1989 season. This news coupled with a sense of great futility saw Warne hit a low, struggling to find passion about anything, that would eventually serve as a catalyst to ensure he would never feel “not good enough” again.
We spare a thought for Warne’s family during this time. Especially his three children, Brooke (24), Jackson (22) and Summer (20). Despite admitting that “rightly or wrongly, cricket was always my number one priority”, he was still a dedicated family man nonetheless. There is always going to be a cost in the pursuit of greatness, and for Warne, that’s what it took to be the best. His kids however, all continue to express an understanding for his absences during their childhoods.
“[H]e’s going down as one of the greatest ever cricketers of all time, so I can appreciate those sacrifices he had to make when we were younger. For him to be Shane Warne,” said Warne’s son, Jackson.
Best Bowling: 8/71
Highest Score: 99
The figures alone are impressive, yet a bit of quantitative analysis does not have the capacity to capture the legacy of this larger than life character. Rather, I’ve found the anecdotes and personal stories that have come out in recent weeks have played a far greater role in celebrating the man, as well as his achievements. On the field Warnie had his fair share of intense opponents, however I’ve found that those that were on the receiving end of a Shane Warne off-spin ball have had the most emotional tributes in the wake of his passing, demonstrating the currency of respect that lives within sport. One that transcends even the most bitter of rivalries, a respect for game, a respect for the man. The rivalry between himself and Sachin Tendulkar goes down as one of the greatest in modern cricket.
“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”, writes Tendulkar.
My personal favourite Warnie story features fellow cricketer Brendon Julian as he recounts the time they snuck out in the middle of the Lord’s Test to attend a Rolling Stones Party. Posing as Warnie’s ‘bodyguard’, the experience was summed up by BJ as “a continuation of a lifelong theme for me of being an accidental tourist in the Warnie Show”. Cricket’s rockstar sneaking out mid test to meet up with actual rockstar, Ronnie Wood. Worth the dressing down he received from Tubby Taylor later on.
To those who haven’t gotten around to giving it a watch, I recommend Warne’s recent documentary titled ‘Shane’ to get some insight into the man behind the spin. Featuring interviews of many big names such as Ed Sheeran, Michael Clarke (Clarkey), Merv Hughes and Martin Smith just to name a few, as well as pieces from his children and ex-wife Simone Callahan. It wouldn’t be a Shane Warne documentary without reliving Boxing Day 2006. First day of the fourth Ashes Test at the MCG, 47th over of the day. 90,000 in the house. Bowling from his preferred Southern end, top of middle stump. Clean bowled. No better way to bag number 700. Warnie would go on to send Andrew Strauss a Christmas card every year following, “thanks for missing it Straussy”. Warne himself digs into some of the shocking stories that spanned his career, from his 2003 positive drug test to the 1994 $20K Pakistani bribing scandal. Despite the controversy that followed him both on and off the pitch, in one of his last interviews he summed up his career in a ‘live every day like it’s your last’ attitude.
“I don’t have any regrets”.
Image: Victorian State Government