When Shane Warne Wowed A 7-Year-Old Before The 2001 India-Australia Epic at Eden

The reason I was in tears on 4 March, as a colleague showed me a headline I couldn't - and didn't want to - believe.

6 min read
Hindi Female

You remember the iconic India-Australia Kolkata Test of 2001? Yep, that one. When a very, very special innings by Laxman and Dravid, and some fifth-day magic by Bhajji and Sachin took India to the unlikeliest of unlikely victories.

Apart from the joy of watching India's greatest Test comeback, I remember that match very fondly for a couple of other reasons. One, it was the first time I watched a cricket match live at the stadium - and could I have possibly asked for a better debut as a fan at the electrifying Eden Gardens!

But why talk about all of this now? Because of the second reason.

Because on the sidelines of that Test match was when I, a cricket-crazy 7-year-old, got to meet one of my cricketing heroes. In fact, it was the first time I'd met any cricketer who played at the international level.

It was also the reason I was in tears on the evening of 4 March, as a colleague showed me a headline I could not - and did not want to - believe.

The Day I Met Shane Warne

It was 8 March 2001. Three days before the Kolkata Test was to begin. Australia had just drubbed India by a 10-wicket margin in Mumbai, they were on a world record streak of 16 consecutive Test wins, and were the defending ODI World Cup champions to boot (having won the '99 Cup in England, the first WC I had watched avidly).

The aura of the world-beating Aussies, and the hope of sighting some of the stars of the Indian team, was what pulled me, along with my family and that of a friend's, to the team hotel in Kolkata.

We were a middle-class family, and not one which would dine at the 5-star Taj Bengal hotel on a regular Thursday (or indeed any day of the year). But that day, the cricket fandom took precedence, and we went along to Taj Bengal.

And why read the memories of a 28-year-old me describing what happened next when you can rather read the diary entry of the excited 7-year-old me writing about it?

The reason I was in tears on 4 March, as a colleague showed me a headline I couldn't - and didn't want to - believe.
The reason I was in tears on 4 March, as a colleague showed me a headline I couldn't - and didn't want to - believe.
The reason I was in tears on 4 March, as a colleague showed me a headline I couldn't - and didn't want to - believe.

In case you found the text difficult, I'll pretend it's the picture quality and not my handwriting, so here's the text anyway, 7-year-old's spelling errors and all -

It was Thursday. A day before Holi. It was 8th of March 2001. We went to Taj Bengal with my friend. She was Riona and I am Meghnad. A match was coming up at Kolkata on Sunday. A boy told he will give us tickets. When we went to Taj Bengal to our surprise we saw the ACB. First we saw Steve Waugh, the skipper. Then, we saw Shane Ware, the leg spinner, Justin Langer, Michael Kasprowicz, Damien Martin, Adam Gilchrist and Mathew Hayden. They were all eating their dinner.

Suddenly at 10:35 pm, Shane Warne was going towards the elevator. Someone who went with us gave her diary to me. I went to Shane Warne quickly and gave the diary. Shane Warne signatured it. And when he did this, my father said to Shane Warne, "He wants to be a cricketer." It was me whom he told about. And the replie of Shane Warne was, "Ya! I hope you do. Good Luck!"

I ended the short essay by drawing the letters ACB (which stood for the Australian Cricket Board).

I vividly recall the day. There is a photographic memory of Warney imprinted in my mind (we don't have a photograph unfortunately) of my father and me standing in front of the elevator. I remember having to look up to Warne, quite literally, as he towered over me. But most importantly, I remember the warmth of that small interaction, and that encouraging smile that he had given me on hearing that I wanted to become a cricketer.

Half our entire generation, that was growing up watching Sachin Tendulkar, wanted to become a cricketer and I knew, even then, that my dreams were likely going to be little more than that, but it just felt so nice to hear arguably the greatest spinner of all time encourage me to follow my dreams.


Shane Warne - And Happy Memories Either Way!

The reason I was in tears on 4 March, as a colleague showed me a headline I couldn't - and didn't want to - believe.

The wizard at work

(Photo courtesy: Shahid Afridi/Twitter)

If on 8 March, Warne had made me jump in joy as a fan who met a legend, three days later, on my first day watching a match inside the stadium, Warne gave me a different reason to cheer altogether - his golden duck was Harbhajan's third scalp in three deliveries in the 72nd over on Day 1!

As Bhajji became the first Indian bowler to take a Test hattrick, and I jumped up in euphoria along with everyone else at Eden Gardens, Shane Warne became inextricably linked to one of my fondest memories in the stands.

The joy of that day made me a sucker for watching Test cricket live in the stadium ever since, through its ebbs and flows, and its highs and lows.

And, in a funny, ironic and heartwarming way, that duck reminds me of my relationship with Warne not just as a cricket fan, but also as an Indian cricket fan. Here's what I mean, and why those two perspectives are different, and each cherished in their own way.

As a fan of the game, I was awestruck by Warne and his exploits on the pitch - whether it be on the fast tracks Down Under, or in seam-friendly conditions in England during the Ashes. He turned the cricket ball like only he could, his wrists weaving magic in the air. I watched him live on the telly, and tried to repeat his action while attempting that lofted leg spin in matches with my friends in the housing complex or in school. Warne was a singular source of awe. More than any other emotion, watching him filled me with wonder.


As YouTube came about, and we began watching old cricket clips online, there is no way to estimate the approximate number of times I would have watched the Ball of the Century to Mike Gatting, or any number of Warne's greatest deliveries, because he sure had a lot of them (ah, that ripper to Strauss)!

But all of this was left aside whenever I thought of Warne as an Indian cricket fan.

In fact, I am smiling while writing this line right now, as I remember how thinking about Warne from the POV of an Indian fan always made me so happy and nostalgic about the time Sachin had taken the legend to task in the home series in India in 1998. And then right after, in that unforgettable series in Sharjah, where Warne got punished for a wicketless 61 in his 10 overs in the final. And all those Sachin slog sweeps to the boundary, and dancing down the wicket to send the ball over it, all those memories are what come to mind when I remember Warne as an Indian cricket fan.

Just like that lovely memory of his golden duck at Eden, Warne has always been special - regardless of whether he was writing his way into the history books by taking wickets, or having as tough a time against India as his other opponents were used to against him. Either way, it was a win for us watching him play!

As the world of international cricket sighs collectively in grief and remembers the man whose leggies and wrong-uns spun their way into our hearts, I will take another look at my diary entry and remember the wizard named Warne I had the privilege of witnessing in person, on and off the pitch. Thank you for everything, Warney!

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Cricket   Shane Warne   Obituary 

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