Australian cricket greats and former teammates have paid tribute to Shane Warne, following his sudden death in Thailand.
- Bill Lawry says Warne sits alongside Don Bradman as the greatest player he has seen
- Ian Chappell praised Warne’s aggressive attitude to bowling
- Adam Gilchrist says it was a privilege to keep to Warne during his career
Warne died of a suspected heart attack, aged 52.
He played 145 Tests for Australia, taking 708 wickets at an average of 25.41, and was a member of the 1999 World Cup-winning squad in the ODI arena.
Warne sits second on the all-time Test wicket-takers list, behind Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan (800).
The Australian men’s Test team observed a minute’s silence before the start of play on day two of the first Test against Pakistan in Rawalpindi.
The women’s ODI team paid their respects prior to their opening World Cup match against England in New Zealand.
Former Australia captain and TV commentator Bill Lawry said Warne stood alongside Don Bradman as the greatest player he had seen.
“He and Bradman are head and shoulders above the rest and hopefully there will be another one around the corner,” Lawry told ABC Sport.
“Bradman dominated cricket with the bat … and Shane dominated with the ball.”
Lawry, who covered Warne’s international career from the Channel Nine commentary box, said the Victorian took leg-spin to new heights.
“I think his greatest talent was he was a natural genius. We will probably never see a leg-spinner of his quality again,” he said.
“He had a great cricket brain. He wasn’t an athlete … you give him a cricket ball and he was so competitive and he just worked the batsmen over.
“He put them under enormous pressure, no matter how good they were.”
Another former Australian captain, Ian Chappell, agreed with Lawry, saying Warne had a “terrific cricket brain”.
“The thing that I suppose I really admired was it was a very aggressive cricket brain,” Chappell said.
“The way I would sum him up would be I’d put him in the same category as Dennis Lillee.
“There weren’t that many batsmen around who could take Warnie for four … you always felt he was going to get a wicket.”
Ian Healy kept to Warne during the first half of the leg-spinner’s international career.
The wicketkeeper first played with Warne in a domestic tour match, describing his younger teammate as being “older than his years”, given how he had mastered the art of leg-spin.
“I thought he was an old stager, the way the ball came out of his hand and he could control it so well,” Healy said.
“So to me, his greatest skill was his accuracy. He could use the ball tantalisingly for a tailender, and he could tie up the best of batsmen and keep them really quiet and stressed.
“And then he could get you out when the wicket allowed him to, really spin and dart it differently.
“He had everything from a young age and he had the ability to control it all.”
‘One of the boys’
It was not just Warne’s feats on the cricket field that have been fondly remembered.
His larrikin personality and the unorthodox nature of his diet were recalled with much amusement by his former teammates and friends.
Justin Langer, who retired in the same Test as Warne in 2007, said his approach to diet meant he was an “enigma” in many ways.
“He was the best player, the greatest player we’ve probably produced, and yet he ate everything [wrong],” Langer said.
“It was the pizza, and then there was the French fries. It was the worst diet I’ve ever ever seen in my life back in [the day].
Chappell said Warne considered himself to “be one of the boys”.
“To me, he was the guy who had no radar. He didn’t see himself as an outstanding person, cricketer, whatever,” Chappell said.
“Warnie would just say, ‘Mate, I’m the bloke who likes the odd [cigarette], a beer and a pie’, and he said, ‘I just like chatting with my mates’, and to me that was one of the great things about Shane, that he was never on himself,” he said.
Ricky Ponting, who captained Warne at the Test level between 2004 and 2007, paid his respects on Twitter.
“The greatest bowler I ever played with or against,” Ponting tweeted.
Another former teammate and wicketkeeper, Adam Gilchrist, said he felt “numb” after learning about Warne’s death.
He said keeping to Warne was the “highlight” of his Test career.
“Best seat in the house to watch the maestro at work,” Gilchrist tweeted.
“Have often felt a tad selfish, that Heals (Ian Healy) and I pretty much exclusively are the only ones who had that thrill and pleasure at Test level. Rip Warnie.”
The Victorian government has offered Warne’s family a state funeral, while Premier Dan Andrews confirmed the MCG’s Great Southern Stand would be renamed in his honour.