Shane Warne - The Player of the Gentleman's Game
Shane Warne picked 1,001 wickets in his international career for Australia.
Growing up in India in the 90s, there was no dearth of cricketing heroes. Sachin Tendulkar was on his way to global superstardom and the supporting cast wasn’t too shabby either. Every child wanted to be a dominating batsman and the handful who liked a cherry in their hands wanted to run in from 30 yards out and fling it as fast as possible to the other end.
Very soon, however, the definition of what was ‘cool’ in cricket had a twist. There emerged this phenomenon – stocky, blonde haired and bubblegum chewing, walking up to the pitch at barely a stroll and yet, destroying the batsman’s confidence before he even released the cricket ball.
On any surface that qualifies as remotely flat in India, cricket is played. Much before there was social media or smartphones, our Tik-Tok trends came from the 17 TV channels that the local cable operator wished to provide at any point of time. And yet, you could travel the length and breadth of the country, and little kids, with minimal command of the English language at best, standing behind bricks as stumps would applaud their mates with the same two words – Bowwwling Shane!!!
I don’t think the impact that Warne had on the global game has ever truly been understood. Spinners were historically the front benchers of the team. Not really the fittest, often understated in their conduct – leaving the batsmen and quicks to fight the battles. But not Shane; he was cool. He made leg-spin cool. If you played cricket in your driveway or the park growing up, you most certainly tried to bowl like Warne.
Shane Warne was my hero.
I started bowling leg spin because of him and I was lucky enough to have met him on a couple of occasions. A friend told me a few hours ago that this feels like a personal loss, and I can’t disagree. The tributes have been pouring in on social media and every person seems to have their own memory, their own little connection and their personal story of how Warne influenced their childhood.
I wrote a tribute about Diego Maradona over a year ago and as I sat down to pen this down – the similarities in the narrative seemed eerie. Warne was the Rockstar of cricket. Unabashed, unapologetic, and unprecedented. One can try to fit in some anecdotes about him in a piece like this, but that would be a gross disservice to the man whose entire life was a Hollywood movie.
You could try and hate him, some even said they loathed him, but they all just kept coming back for more of him. His cricketing achievements would have been plastered everywhere possible by the time you read this, and it is no exaggeration that Shane Warne changed the face of cricket as we know it. His rivalry with Sachin, the ball of the century, and his partnership with Healey are just a few of his exploits, that will forever be remembered as the greatest in cricketing history.
Warne was a genius; he was an enigma. Every kid wanted to be him, and every man wanted to be friends with him. Larger than the game, larger than life itself, his passing will leave a void that cannot possibly be filled, and the sport will always be poorer for it.
2022 was the year that ‘Shane’ the documentary was released. It was supposed to be a celebration of the greatest bowler of all time and his life’s journey so far. The fact that we will all watch it as a tribute to the man is probably the greatest flipper he ever pulled out of the hat.
(A lawyer by qualification, Saurabh Mehta works as a sports consultant, helping international sports organisations grow their brand in India. In his spare time, Saurabh tries to catch up and write on as much sport as possible and plan his next holiday around a major sporting event.)
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