Shock and tributes as Aussie cricket great Shane Warne dies aged 52

05 Mar 2022 01:07pm
A man places photos at the base of a statue of former Australian cricket great Shane Warne at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), in Melbourne on March 5, 2022. - AFP
A man places photos at the base of a statue of former Australian cricket great Shane Warne at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), in Melbourne on March 5, 2022. - AFP
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SYDNEY - Australian superstar Shane Warne, one of the greatest Test cricketers of all time has died of a suspected heart attack aged just 52, sparking a global outpouring of grief from players, celebrities and politicians.

Warne, a larger-than-life character whose tally of 708 Test wickets has been surpassed only by fellow spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was found unresponsive at a luxury resort in Koh Samui, Thailand on Friday.

"Shane was found unresponsive in his villa and despite the best efforts of medical staff, he could not be revived," a statement from his management company said.

Warne had reportedly been due to meet friends for a drink, but failed to appear.

A Thai medical source told AFP that companions and emergency staff performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation but to no avail.

His body was brought to the Thai International Hospital Samui at around 6:00 pm local time (1100 GMT) from Samujana Villas, northeast of Koh Samui, medical staff said.

"No foul play was suspected at the scene based on our investigation," Thai police told AFP.

As Australia awoke to the news on Saturday, fans laid flowers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where there is a statue in Warne's honour.

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Among the other offerings were a can of beer, a packet of cigarettes and a meat pie -- a nod to Warne's famously hard-charging lifestyle.

So beloved was Warne in his native Melbourne that the state government said the Great Southern Stand at the MCG will be renamed the S.K. Warne Stand.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Warne "one of our nation's greatest characters" and announced he would receive a full state funeral.

In a touching tribute, Morrison praised him as an inspiration to backyard cricketers across the country and someone who lit up each Australian summer.

"His achievements were the product of his talent, his discipline and passion for the game he loved. But Shane was more than this to Australians," Morrison said.

Credited with reviving the art of leg-spin, Warne was part of a dominant Australian Test team in the 1990s and 2000s and helped his country win the 1999 limited-overs World Cup.

Australian captain Pat Cummins, currently leading the team on a tour of Pakistan, said he was "a hero" to the current generation of cricketers.

"The loss that we are all trying to wrap our heads around is huge," he said in a video message.

Warne's inestimable impact was reflected by his inclusion in a list of the Wisden Cricketers of the 20th Century, alongside Bradman, Garfield Sobers, Jack Hobbs and Viv Richards.

West Indian great Richards said he was "shocked to the core".

"There are no words to describe what I feel right now," he tweeted.

Bursting onto the scene as a brash young player with a shock of blond hair, Warne became almost as well known for a colourful life away from cricket as he was for his exploits on the field.

Both he and Australia team-mate Mark Waugh were fined for accepting money from a bookmaker and Warne was suspended for 12 months after failing a drugs test on the eve of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, having taken a diuretic.

The first bowler to take 700 Test wickets with an assortment of leg-breaks, googlies, flippers and his own "zooters", Warne retired from Australia duty in 2007 following a 5-0 series win at home to arch-rivals England.

He played 145 Tests in total over a 15-year career, taking 708 wickets, and was also a useful lower-order batsman, with a highest Test score of 99.

In addition to his international exploits, Warne also enjoyed a successful career with his Australian state side Victoria and English county team Hampshire.

- 'An honour' -

Following his international retirement, Warne continued to star on the Twenty20 franchise circuit, appearing for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League and his home town Melbourne Stars in Australia's Big Bash League.

He subsequently became a highly regarded television commentator and pundit, renowned for his forthright opinions, and was involved with coaching, working individually with current-day leg-spinners.

Warne was divorced from wife Simone Callahan, with whom he had three children. He also had a high-profile relationship with British actress Liz Hurley.

India batting great Sachin Tendulkar wrote on Twitter of his ex-rival: "Shocked, stunned & miserable... Will miss you Warnie. There was never a dull moment with you around."

Former Australia team-mate Adam Gilchrist said he was "numb" and his death also attracted the attention of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, a big cricket fan, who said he was "so saddened".

"He brought such joy to the game and was the greatest spin bowler ever," said Jagger, while fellow superstar singer Ed Sheeran called him "such an amazing friend".

"I'll bloody miss you mate", Sheeran said, with Australian Hollywood royalty Russell Crowe and High Jackman also paying tribute.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "totally shocked", hailing Warne as "a cricketing genius and one of the nicest guys you could meet, who also did a lot to help disadvantaged kids into sport". -AFP

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