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Shane Warne, Australian cricketer, 1969-2022

Shane Warne is one of the Wisden Cricket Almanack’s five of the greatest cricketers of the 20th century, but also one of the great sports figures. The hedonistic Australian, who has died aged 52, has revived the near-extinct art of swing-leg bowling, while embodying an unrepentant version of evil masculinity that is itself outdated. .

Growing up in the suburbs of Melbourne, Warne dreamed of playing Australian Rugby Rules, but not good enough. Cricket is his second choice. On his first visit to England in 1993, he became an instant superstar. The bowling game of swinging, bouncing, and then spinning off a right-handed player, was so difficult to do that some 1990s hitters had trouble. Australia purposefully didn’t use Warne much in the warm-up matches and he hid his entire repertoire, so when he threw the first ball in Test cricket in England against Mike Gatting, the veteran was not prepared.

The “The Ball of the Century” bounces outside of Gatting’s stump, then swings over 2ft to hit the skewed stump. The Englishman walked away, eyebrows raised, before glancing back puzzled.

“Warney,” as everyone in cricket called him, was soon followed by a series of photographers on the street. By his own admission, he has become “a bit obstinate”. The tabloids, then in their heyday, repeatedly tagged him, to the suffering of his wife, Simone Callahan. Had Sales scandals too: in 1994, a bookie paid him $5,000 (which he lost instantly in a casino) for turf and weather information, and in 2003 he banned because diuretics are prohibited. his mantra, “Always shoot messengers”, rarely works. He and Australia’s captain Steve Waugh pissed off each other.

Shane Warne in his final test match in Sydney, 2007 © Gareth Copley/PA

Just as Warne is like a regular hitter who wandered out of the pub into the yard, he is an obsessive professional in his own right. He wished he could prepare for matches with a smoke and cup of tea in the booth while thinking hard about the layoffs of every single bat player, but Australia made him do boring drills. .

He walks rather than runs into the bowl and creates a spin with his middle finger, while also making the ball drift with spin. His precision turned what was once the riskiest form of bowling into a certainty. He plans ball after ball, imagines the shot he wants the pitcher to make, then goes bowling to execute it. “I want to make every ball an event,” he say.

He loves being Shane Warne, humiliating the batsmen with his rich verbal repertoire. “There is no mate on the cricket field,” and international sports are not green villages, he said. His favorite “rabbit”, or easy victim, is South Africa’s Daryll Cullinan, whom he always greets with glee. “I’ve waited 10 months to beat you again, Daryll,” he was once said to have called, to which Cullinan replied, possibly his only victory over Warne: “You look as if you spent all that time eating.” Greater than life, Warne also grew in life.

After his great Australian team won six straight Ashes series against England, Simone finally left him for the seventh, in 2005, flying home from England with their three children . He played an excellent streak, even when Australia lost. He must have decimated Britain’s economic productivity: millions of people spend weekday afternoons glued to screens just more than once Warne. His the fans chanted, “Where did your aunt go?”, but also, “We wish you were British”. 2007, Australia won his last Ashes series 5-0 and he took his 700th Test bat, a first in Test history.

Shane Warne celebrates after Australia won the Ashes 2006-07
Shane Warne celebrates after Australia beat the Ashes 2006-07 © Jason O’Brien / Action Images / Reuters

Cricket writer Simon Lister calls Warne the complete sports hero: the technical perfection of driver Michael Schumacher, the strategic talent of chess player Bobby Fischer, and the lifestyle of Driver James Hunt.

Warne also embodies an aspect of Australian nationalism: he is a “larva”, a misbehaving young man with a heart of gold. Despite being judged unfit for the Test captaincy (arguably the most divine role in Australian life), he show me an astute leader. His two-year engagement to British actress Elizabeth Hurley did not make it to the altar. He was inspired at least 15 books about his life, recent documentaries Shane, and a musical. “The most important thing,” he said, “is that I put a big smile on the faces of so many people.”

By a lucky fate, Warne died on Cullinan’s birthday. His last tweet for Australian cricketer and coach Rod Marsh, who raved about him for hours: “RIP mate ♥ ️.”

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