Shane Warne: From an unsure spin bowler to becoming the ‘rockstar of cricket’, and courting controversy through it all
A look at the colourful career of the late Australian cricket legend
In 1992, as a wily 22-year-old when Shane Warne made his Test debut against India in Sydney, he returned 1 for 150. His performance was panned by critics and he did himself no favour going wicketless in the subsequent two matches of the series. His lean run continued in the opening Test against Sri Lanka in an away tour later that year. But he roared into form in the second Test in Colombo where his figures of 3/11 in the second innings was instrumental in Australia’s victory. He continued to make a mark in the West Indies tour of Australia that year, recording a score of 7/52 in the second test. Warne, the only specialist bowler in the five ‘Wisden Cricketers of the Century,’ didn’t take much more time to prove beyond a doubt that he meant business.
His first Ashes followed, where once again he impressed critics and won many fans, becoming the highest wicket taker with 34. The highlight of course was what came to be known as ‘The Ball of The Century’, his first delivery of the series, also his first against England, that saw English batsman Mike Gatting being bowled out. Having cemented his place as a bowler to watch out for, Warne’s popularity only grew from there as he toured the world, a trail of fallen wickets in his wake.
Credited with reviving the art of leg spin bowling, he reached the milestone of 300 Test wickets in 1998, the second Australian to do so after Dennis Lillee. But Warne was only just getting started. Over the course of his international career, the Australian took 708 Test wickets and over 1,000 across all formats of the game. His record-breaking 700th came against England in an Ashes tie at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). And poetically, the final Test match of his career was also played at the SCG… the venue of his first.
In the Indian Premier League’s inaugural season, Warne signed for Rajasthan Royals for a sum of US$450,000. As the captain of the team, he led them to victory in the very first season and continued to captain the side until 2011.
His stellar career, however, was marred by controversy, right from the early days. In the late 90s, it was revealed that he had accepted money from a bookmaker for providing information about pitch and weather conditions. Then in 2003, a day before the start of the World Cup, he was removed from the Australian squad for the use of a banned drug. His suspension lasted a year. He was also accused of sending lewd text messages to a British nurse, while married to his ex-wife Simone Callahan which resulted in him losing his vice captaincy. His hostile on-field behaviour and off-field indiscretions, earned him many penalties.
While his moral code might be questionable, purists of the game will always view him as Brett Lee did in his tribute, as ‘The rockstar of cricket.’