A potent cocktail of audacity and joie de vivre: Shane Warne was one of cricket’s most magnetic characters

With the sudden, tragic passing of Shane Warne, cricket has lost one of its most compelling and charismatic characters, as well as perhaps its greatest player.

The loss of Warne has left the game stunned, because he was a cricketer who transcended borders. Fans from far beyond Australia were tormented by his beguiling bowling across his 15 years playing international cricket, but they still loved him.

Since Warne burst onto the scene with the delivery dubbed simply “the Gatting Ball” or “the ball of the century” at Old Trafford in 1993 – his very first ball in Ashes cricket – kids all over the world have tried leg-spin.

 

As Virender Sehwag, the former India opener, said on Twitter: “The man who made spin cool”. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Warne was a central figure in perhaps the greatest side to play the game, the Australians of the 1990s and 2000s.

He was their key point of difference: a leg-spinner who could attack or defend whatever the conditions, allowing them to beef up the batting. It helped that he was also an outstanding slip fielder and a very handy batter who was twice dismissed in the nineties but never made an international century. They swept aside all before them in Test and ODI cricket.

Warne was that team’s point of difference off the field, too. He was a rebel who stayed up late drinking, smoking, flirting and doing anything else he could get away with. He was not an avowed disciple of the Baggy Green like so many of those he played with. He was a man apart.

Warne understood that the sport, even at the very highest level, was supposed to be fun, not a grind or a chore.

If there was a choice, he would always take the attacking option. He enjoyed adding theatre to the game, whether through wise-crack sledging, predicting how he would get batters out, or the bogus invention of a new delivery before almost every game he played. He was a potent cocktail of audacity and joie de vivre.

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