The name Shane Warne is one of the most famous and appealing in the sport of cricket. Even if you aren’t a huge follower of the game, Warne is someone most people will have heard of and someone most would be aware holds a fair amount of respect. He is arguably the greatest spin bowler cricket has ever seen.
Playing for his native Australia, Warne notched up a staggering 708 test wickets, which was the world record until very recently. In 2000 he was inducted into Wisden’s Cricket Hall of Fame and was the only bowler from the five selected.
He is also a pretty good batsman as well and could easily be called an all-rounder had it not been for his formidable bowling stats. His truly remarkable leg-spin-bowling technique has dismissed some of the most experienced and capable batsman in the world.
How it all began
Shane was 21 when he made his professional cricketing debut. It was for his home state of Victoria, against Western Australia in Melbourne. On the strength of his performance in this and in subsequent games, Warne was given a shot in Australia’s B team in 1991 and then, the following year, he played for the A team in his first proper test match against India.
It wasn’t the most explosive of starts for Warne and his figures for the first few tests were around the 1/228 and 0/107 mark. But then the following year, against Sri Lanka, the stats looked much more familiar to us now at 3/11.
Warne made an early impact on the world stage in the 1992/93 season, when Australia played the West Indies in Melbourne. Warne came away with a staggering figure of 7/52.
‘That’ spin and ‘that’ ball.
Before Warne came along, the spinning of a cricket ball was not nearly as popular and widely used as it once was. The principle spinner for Australia at the time was Peter Taylor but he became side-lined in favour of the young Warne, who had intentions on creating a new style of his own.
Fast bowling was the way to beat an opponent in the 70s and 80s and, with the best fast-bowling from sides like the West Indies and Pakistan, it wasn’t going to be easy for Shane to make a mark with the spin. But he did.
In 1993, Shane joined his fellow Aussies for a summer test-tour of England and it would be his first against the Lions. People were talking about this young man and the likes of very skilled batsman such as Gooch, Stewart, Hick and Gatting were all keen to see what he was made of.
Shane Warne’s first ball against England in test cricket has gone down in history as one of the greatest balls of the century. Mike Gatting, one of the most experienced batsmen in the England line-up, stood at the crease waiting for his delivery and what followed can only be seen to be believed. Here it is. It defied logic and confused everyone in the ground…apart from Warne that was. He took the most wickets by far in that series at 34 and from that day forth he was a deadly weapon for the Aussies.
Warne always pulls out the real magic in the test games and particularly against England in the Ashes. The stats never lie and for Shane they were there in black and white. He was impressive as a bowler and a batsman.
In total he played 145 test matches, bowled 40,704 balls, took an incredible 708 wickets and averaged a modest 17 average runs. One of the greatest moments in Ashes history, and in Shane’s career, came on Boxing Day in 1994 when, in his home of Melbourne, he scored a hat-trick against England. This again is something to be seen to be believed.
Shane’s One Day Internationals are just as impressive. In World Cups he has been deadly with the spin technique. He captained his country ten times in One Day games and Australia only lost one with him at the helm.
In World Cups, Shane was one of the most important aspects to Australia’s winning of the 1999 tournament and he was man of the match many times throughout the campaign.
His bowling started to break records and in 2004 he reached 500 test wickets. Then in 2005 that went up to 600 and in 2006 that figure reached 700.
One of his best all-round performances for Australia in test cricket came in the most famous 2005 Ashes series. Warne epitomised the excitement and drama that the whole series possessed and he notched up 40 wickets and 249 runs in total.
He retired from international cricket in the same dramatic style he began. He amazingly made it to 1000 international wickets for his country when he dismissed Monty Panesar and then after that saw off Freddie Flintoff to help Australia win the series resoundingly.
From Victoria to Hampshire and beyond…
Aside from internationals, Warne has also enjoyed a very impressive domestic club career. Up until the modest age of 37, Shane played for his home state of Victoria when he wasn’t playing internationals. He then moved over to England and played and captained Hampshire for a couple of seasons, wowing the adoring English cricket fans all over the country.
In 2008 Warne made the sort of move that David Beckham did recently to America in football. He took himself off to India to play in the Indian Premier League for Jaipur team. He is both captain and coach and is not doubt earning a few pennies along the way.
Off the field
Although he is one of the greatest ambassadors for playing cricket, Warne has often been slightly less impeccable when it comes to his behaviour off the pitch. In 1994 he was involved with a bookmaking scam where he may or may not have given a bookie a ‘heads-up’ about how a performance might go.
In 1999 he was charged with bringing the game into disrepute when he made comments about Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga. Then in 2003 he was found to have taken a banned substance, which he claimed was to make him look better, but the Australian Cricket Board disagreed, and banned him from playing for a year.
Shane didn’t leave the sport entirely and became a commentator for Channel 9 in Australia during this period. Shane’s naughtiness spilled over into his love life too and his marriage with Simone Callahan has been on and off over the years.
Shane Warne’s name will forever be associated with the finest cricket the world has ever seen. His bowling style is revolutionary and it likely to be compared to and mimicked for many years to come.
He might be a little bit erratic off the field of play, but he has never let it effect his game and, in just under 20 years of professional international cricket, he has always been one of the best in the world and well worthy of being called a legend.