Shane Warne, the larger than life leg-spinner who bamboozled batsmen, enthralled fans, and constantly provided fodder to tabloids, stunned the world one last time on Friday as he passed away, aged just 52.
Warne, who ended his international career in 2007 with 708 Test wickets, more than anyone else except Muttiah Muralitharan (800) died from a suspected heart attack in Koh Samui, Thailand, his family confirmed in a statement.
He also had 293 wickets from 194 one-dayers, won the man-of-the-match award when Australia beat Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup final, and was declared one of the five greatest cricketers of the 20th century by Wisden.
“Shane was found unresponsive in his villa and despite the best efforts of medical staff, he could not be revived,” the statement read. Thai Police said they were not treating the death as suspicious.
In a cruel twist, Warne’s death came just hours after another former Australian cricket great, wicket-keeper Rod Marsh died on Friday at the age of 74. Warne’s last post on Twitter, 12 hours before his death was reported, was a tribute to Marsh.
“Sad to hear the news that Rod Marsh has passed. He was a legend of our great game & an inspiration to so many young boys & girls. Rod cared deeply about cricket & gave so much-especially to Australia & England players. Sending lots & lots of love to Ros & the family.”
A few hours later, it was Warne who was being tweeted about by his fellow legends. “Will miss you Warnie. There was never a dull moment with you around, on or off the field. Will always treasure our on field duels & off field banter. You always had a special place for India & Indians had a special place for you,” Sachin Tendulkar tweeted.
Credited with reviving the dying art of leg spin, Warne made a forgettable debut in 1992 against India, but rose to become a key figure across all formats in one of the greatest sustained periods of dominance by any team in world cricket. He conjured up the “Ball of the Century” with his very first delivery of the 1993 Ashes tour, bowling Mike Gatting with a ball that turned from well outside leg stump to clip the off bail, instantly writing himself into folklore.
Not a fan of the fitness culture, he once held up a packet of cigaretes when the Australian cricket team was asked if any of them were on essential medication. But he proved extremely durable over a long career in which he often bowled marathon spells.
A character who loved the spotlight, Warne often found himself embroiled in controversy. In 1995, he and Mark Waugh were fined AUD 15,000 each for giving information to an Indian bookmaker during the previous year’s tour of Sri Lanka. In 2003, he served a 12-month ban after testing positive for taking a prohibited substance, which he blamed on his mother for giving him a diuretic to “improve his appearance.” But he returned in 2004 and in the third Ashes Test of 2005, he became the first bowler in history to take 600 Test wickets.
His exploits off the field took their toll on his marriage and he split from wife Simone, the mother of his three children. He later had a relationship and became engaged to English actress Liz Hurley in 2010. The pair eventually split in 2013.
His well documented escapades may have cost him the leadership of the national team. Often called the best captain Australia never had, he inspired Rajasthan Royals to the inaugural Indian Premier League title in 2008. It was one among many unexpected twists in his life — including the manner in which it finally came to an end.