How do you bowl a flipper? That was the burning issue at nets in June 1993. That summer, rather than running in from the sightscreen like Patrick Patterson or Courtney Walsh, us kids suddenly wanted to be a blonde haired leg spinner. But not any old blonde leg spinner. Nobody wanted to be Ian Salisbury. We all wanted to be ‘Warney’ – the cricketing surfer dude come rock star who was completely unlike any professional cricketer we’d ever seen.

Shane Warne was cool personified. And he did things that made you go ‘wow’. Even his stock leggie seemed to turn about 90 degrees and drift more than a Waqar Younis in-swinging yorker. He made proven Test batsmen look utterly stupid. Meanwhile, his googlie (which nobody could pick) and flipper – Richie Benaud once explained that he “squeezed it out like a bar of soap” – seemed like witchcraft. Warney was like Mushtaq Ahmed or Abdul Qadir but ever better. And he looked like he’d just walked off the set of Home and Away. My future sister in law was completely besotted with him.

But there was just one problem. His emergence consolidated Australia’s complete dominance over England on the cricket field. My first experience of Ashes cricket was David Gower’s sublime summer of 1985 when England were dominant. Then came Mike Gatting’s fantastic triumph down under in 1986/87. I admit that the next two series didn’t exactly go to plan – some bloke called Steve Waugh put paid to that – but I always assumed that success in sports was cyclical and that England’s time would come again soon. Instead I had to wait until 2005 when Warney’s flipper and googlie were just a distant memory. But he still took 40 wickets in a losing cause. Incredible.

So what were my feelings when I heard yesterday lunchtime (just after the daily screening of Home and Away) that Shane was no longer with us? Like many I couldn’t believe it. He was larger than life and always seemed young at heart. Therefore, to hear that his heart gave out at the age of just 52 feels cruel and unfair. This is a massive, massive loss to the cricketing fraternity. And our lives as cricket followers who, like Warney himself, live and breathe the game, will be so much blander as a result. I’ll miss him as much as I miss Bob Willis.

I’m not going to write too much more about Shane the bowler here. He was amazing. We all know that. When he was at his peak, before his shoulder injury, he was the best and most mesmerising bowler that I’ve ever seen. What’s more, I think he had a bigger impact on the sport than any contemporary player. Instead, I want to focus on Shane’s personality. After all, I started to admire and adore his approach just as much as his bowling skills over the years.

As someone who was pretty much a conformist in my youth – I was never in trouble at school and took myself far too seriously – I didn’t particularly like Warney (as a character) when he burst onto the scene. He seemed uncouth, brash and disrespectful – the antithesis of what I thought cricket was about. However, in time I realised that it was merely his skill (rather than his personality) that disrespected fellow cricketers – by dismissing them with nonchalant and consummate ease. He couldn’t help being brilliant. 

What’s more, as my outlook on life changed, I began to see Warne’s rebellious streak as something to be admired: here was someone who transcended cricket’s stuffiness and did things his own way. And he didn’t particularly give a toss what people thought. He ate burgers for lunch – “they make me feel good and I bowl better when I’m full” – had little respect for respected figures like John Buchanan – “the only use for a coach in international cricket is to get players to the ground” – and he even had the audacity to date Liz Hurley. Respect. 

Consequently, I’ll always remember Warney as a legitimate cricketing rock star – arguably the biggest rock star that the sport has ever seen. Therefore, it almost seems typical that he’s left us at such a young age – just like all the literal rock stars who lived fast and died young: Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and the rest.

Warney broke on through, took a little piece of our hearts, and his brand of cricket was as bold as love. No cricketer shone brighter than Shane Warne. And his legend will probably be larger for his premature and desperately sad end.

James Morgan


  • I tend not to get sentimental about the deaths of famous people. Clearly it is sad for their friends and family, but doesn’t affect me. However, I’ll admit to having had a lump in my throat whilst reading an obit of Warne last night. He was one of the few players that opposing fans grew to admire and could fully appreciate his skill.

    In his notes for the 2007 Wisden, Matthew Engel wrote, “…Shane Warne is due to bowl for Hampshire in first-class cricket in 2007. If you have grandchildren, take them. If you don’t, go anyway – so you can tell them.”

    I was holidaying on the south coast with my family that summer. One bright sunny day, I suggested a day at the cricket. The choice was Hove (where we could have watched Mushtaq Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq) or Southampton. Referencing the above paragraph to my wife, our decision was made: we went to the second day of Hants v Worcs. During a pitiful Worcs batting display (86ao), Warne bowled 4-1-8-0. No doubt one of his least memorable spells.

    They may not remember it, nor care, but my children briefly watched a genius.

    One of them, who now prefers a different game 🏉, but understands my love of cricket said on their way home yesterday they listened to the song “Jiggery Pokery” whilst singing along loudly.

    • I hope they sang the correct version – ‘Out for a buggering four’ ! A great record nonetheless.

  • Some sportspeople seemed to change their chosen game for ever, just by playing the game. Tiger Woods, Pele, Martina Navratilova all made you think differently about golf, football and tennis by revealing aspects and facets of the game that were not visible before they arrived. Warne was cut from the same cloth. When he was thrown the ball, all things seemed possible. I was lucky enough to see him at Lords when he and KP went head to head, thrillingly, for a few overs before the Aussie triumphed. For those few minutes, time seemed to stop. Everything else became irrelevant. I spent a large part of yesterday evening watching Youtube footage of him bowling. Is it really possible that the ball came off the pitch faster than it went on? On several of the clips it appeared that it did.
    Here’s something that I bet many people didn’t know. In the aftermath of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean some years ago, the test ground in Galle, Sri Lanka was almost completely wrecked. The place was rebuilt thanks to huge cash donations from two former players – I.T.Botham and S.K Warne. Larrikins the pair of them but great, great players with hearts of gold. One of them has left us and it kills me.
    Peter Drake teacher cricket nut Hexham

    • I disagree about Navratilova – no women play tennis like she did, her method was a dead-end. Woods on the other hand did change the way golf is played – not alas necessarily for the better.

      • Simon, what I meant was that some players play the game in a way that had not been played before. Martina did that, although I agree she has not been emulated.
        Peter Drake teacher Hexham

  • Desperately sad to see Warnie go. People forget he made the previously dying art of leg spin cool again, and helped end two decades of West Indies-led pace dominance. As an 18 year old trying to master this most difficult of arts, there was no other cricketer in the world I would rather be than him. And his roguishness off the pitch only added to his appeal- he was lucky to retire before social media, and the puritanical era it has ushered in where the slightest indiscretion can lead to a Twitter pile-on and banishment by image-obsessed authorities. I wonder if his talents would ever be given the chance to shine today.

    • “the slightest indiscretion”.

      You mean like being caught taking PEDs and continuing to tell the most improbable lies about it? Sorry, I loved Warne the player as much as anyone, and I have some sympathy with the circumstances of his drug-offense (wanting desperately to be fit for the 2003 WC after a freak shoulder injury), but there’s no need to soft-peddle what he did.

  • I was at the final day of the Trent Bridge test in 2005. Low fourth-innings run chases are always a nail-biting thing to watch, but that day it felt like the whole crowd was holding its collective breath, just waiting until Warne came on to bowl. We knew that he was the one person who could destroy England’s chase, not only with his bowling but because of the mental hold he had over the batsmen. And oh, God, he so nearly did.
    It was the second time I’d seen him live (the first was in an absolute rout at Perth on England’s 2002-3 tour) and of all the players I’ve watched over the years, he’s the one that will stay longest in the memory. For the drama, and the skill, and the oh-so-rare meeting of the two.

  • James, thanks for your kind words.

    He was our Diego Maradona, our George Best. Although he stuck it out longer than those guys. He was nearly 36 during the 2005 Ashes.

    The words “genius” and “icon” are horribly overused, but he was both.

    In that great Australian side, he stood head and shoulders above the rest. He changed the sport the way Federer changed tennis.

    And I still think some folks don’t quite understand how beloved he was in Australia. Even in life, he became a folk hero. He was the most famous Australian sportsman in my lifetime, to say the least, and an absolute fucking legend. At times polarising, but fundamentally beloved. Warne was a force of nature in Australian life for 30 years – that’s why it’s hard to believe he’s gone. It’s like ripping true north off the compass.

    I met him once, when I was working for a magazine in London. He was doing a spin clinic down at Edgbaston and I managed to secure a very brief interview. Maybe 15 minutes. It was just before the 2009 Ashes and he was promoting some poker thing. Along with Richie McCaw, he was probably the friendliest, chattiest athlete I ever interviewed. All the obituaries note his charisma and affability. I have to say, that was absolutely my experience as well. As the interview was wrapping up, some PR flak tried to pull him away, and he kinda shrugged them off and was like “one more question, one more”. And then at the very end after saying goodbye, I asked him if he had a tip for the AFL grand final, which was the following weekend, and I just recall him still chatting about it (“Nah, the Hawks, they’re tough, they beat my Saints”) as he was walking off, all the way up until he disappeared round the corner.

    Australians are combative, as you know. But I’ve been touched by the tributes that have flowed from outside Australia. He was Australia’s favourite bogan, but he became an ornament to the game, and I’m glad that folks all around the world appreciated him.

    Again, thanks for your kind words, you Pommie bastards.


    • Thanks for that Tom. We met him in 2010 when we were staying at the same hotel as him in Leeds. He chatted to us, as a family, signed autographs for the kids and was charm itself. My son, then aged 9, asked me to name Shane’s equivalent in the footy World, so he could work out whom he had just met – and I said ‘Maradona or Pele’. My son still has his autograph!

    • Hey Tom,
      In some ways we feel that Shane belonged to all of us. It was kind of you guys to share him with us
      Peter Drake
      teacher Hexham

  • Thanks for that Tom. We met him in 2010 when we were staying at the same hotel as him in Leeds. He chatted to us, as a family, signed autographs for the kids and was charm itself. My son, then aged 9, asked me to name Shane’s equivalent in the footy World, so he could work out whom he had just met – and I said ‘Maradona or Pele’. My son still has his autograph!

  • A true superstar of the game in every sense. There’ll never be another. He comes from the fag end of non PC where characters were allowed to express themselves on and off the field without fear of public reprisals.
    Shame his death has overshadowed Marsh, who in terms of cricket had the better CV. The Waugh era wouldn’t have happened without his involvement behind the scenes and it was Marsh who championed Warne at the start of his career when things weren’t going well for him. Also respect to any wicketkeeper who had to field a Lillee and Thompson at their peak.
    Despite the fact that most of his best performances seemed to come against us I never tire of watching him bamboozle our batsmen. Probably the only other modern cricketer on his planet is Lord Botham.

  • There’s a statue of SKW outside the MCG that will become a landmark in Melbourne.

    It’ll be Melbourne’s Arc de Triomphe.

    Warne transcended sport in Australia. We loved this fella.

    • We love him too, Tom, even though he caused us such pain. Even in his one losing Ashes series, he knocked over 40 Pommie poles! Apart from the Ball of the Century (which I watched live and owed something to the overhead conditions, which helped the in-swerve and dip before the ball hit the turf) my second most nightmarish moment was when Strauss padded up to a more conventional leg-break in the 2005 Ashes, and lost his leg bail to a ball that pitched wide of off-stump. Only Warney could have conceived such a piece of deception, let alone executed it. A true magician – a theatrical performer – whose legacy will always be the resuscitation of leg-spin bowling as the most beguiling art of cricket. He and Richie are at peace now to have a few more conversations on the subject. RIP Warnie.

    • There was a Sunday League game Surrey vs Hampshire at Whitgift School, around 2007ish I think. You know Warne stayed on for two hours at the end of play to sign autographs for a queue of kids some 200 or so. Tells you a lot about the guy that. And yes 2005, 40 wickets in the famous series in a losing cause. And ball of the century, well it probably was. Watch Gattings walk off.
      But yes Warne and Botham, just survived before the PC age arrived: today it would not have been the same, no doubt they would have been banned by the woke brigade. The game really needs character’s like Warne, a wallop man, not yes men like now. The cricketing world will be even worse off without him. RIP mate.

  • Thank you, James. A nice piece. I have been fortunate to watch, ‘live’, many cricketers, sadly, few of them English, who could genuinely be called ‘great’. Warne was one of them.

  • I love cricket. I love watching top class cricket. Best for me is watching great cricketers and I’ve been lucky to watch Cowdrey, Gower, Sir Viv, Both, McGrath, Ambrose and many others. Warne is very special. Like Beth Hart sings “the cherry on your chocolate cake”.

  • Warne would be the spinner in mine, and I think most people’s, All-Time World XI. His career was one of two parts, pre- and post-shoulder injury. Post-shoulder injury he hardly bowled the flipper but took a phenomenal number of wickets with the slider, basically a 50mph straight ball. He’d try to get one leg-break to turn big-time and once they were playing to cover the leg-spin the slider became deadly.

    One thing I loved about Warne – and it drives me crazy it can be said of so few English players – was his love of the game’s strategies. What a shame his baggage meant CA didn’t entrust him with the captaincy. He loved captaining Hampshire and we cam as near to winning the CC as we have in my cricket-watching lifetime under him (I’m just too young for 1973). It was a very different culture to one where only public school batsmen and coaches could have ideas.

    Finally on Warne, we’re supposed to regard as unremarkable that a 52 year old dies of a heart attack these days? Warne was apparently double-vaxxed and myocarditis is one of the acknowledged effects (not “side” effects) of these vaccines. Is that what killed him? I don’t know – but it’s outright cowardice to not even mention the possibility.

    I have some thoughts on Rod Marsh as well. My oldest cricket memory is Marsh diving in front of Ian Chappell to catch Tony Greig in the 1975 WC SF. Marsh also had a career in two parts – initially he was a great lower order batsman who made tough runs but a fairly average keeeper (dubbed ‘iron gloves’); after 1977 he became a much better keeper but his batting declined. He was a famously tough competitior – but recalled Derek Randall in the Centenary Test when Randall looked like he might win the game for England and had been given out for a catch Marsh knew hadn’t carried. He was an integral part of the great Ian Chappell team that was the best in the world 1972-76.

    • For crying out loud Simon, you can even turn an obituary into a clothes-hanger for your conspiracy theories! Get some class and some manners man, and grow up.

      James isn’t being a “coward” not to mention that Warne might have died of having had a Covid jab–which as you say, even wonderful omniscient Simon H doesn’t know. James also doesn’t mention the possible link between Warne’s decades-long consumption of junk food and having a heart attack. That’s not cowardice either–he just hasn’t. He’s concentrated on Warne’s life and his achievements and his feelings of loss rather than obsessing over the cause of his death, which was not suspicious. That’s what pieces in memoriam do. It’s called respect. Maybe you should learn some!

      • Autopsy report is that was “congenital” . Other words natural causes. Nothing to do with Covid vacs supposed side effects which are exceedingly rare, but used by conspiracy theorists.

  • Beautiful piece of writing James. As I have remarked elsewhere, Warne was also a great commentator who brought the same sense of fun to his commentary as he did to his cricket. We won’t see his like again.

  • Thanks to James and all other contributors for this tribute.

    At the Oval for one ashes test, I had a seat a few rows in front of the players balcony. Shane was sitting there, and he called out ‘anyone got binoculars?’ Me and several others stood up waving binoculars and he selected my rather large and superior looking pair which were passed back to him so he could closely observe some promising looking young woman in the crowd across the ground. He passed them back with a ‘thanks mate’. Nice to be, even briefly, Shane’s mate.

    If there was a dream team to take over the management to restore England’s flagging fortunes, it would have been Shane and Rodney.

  • Now here’s a question…
    Which Englishmen would make an all time Australian XI and which Aussies would make an all time England XI?

    Botham in the Aussie team, Warne in the England team

    Any others?

    Peter Drake

    • If it’s all time then I think it would just come down to a subjective judgement. Was Gilchrist better than Knott, for example? Let’s just say that I don’t think too many of the players in the current XIs would make the cut!

  • Everyone remembers Warne for the Gatting ball and the 2005 Ashes, but I reckon the 1999 World Cup is often overlooked as another of his signature performances.

    Warne had been out of form and recovering from injuries. Some folks had even written him off. In that tournament, Australia had to fight to survive the group stage, thanks to Steve Waugh making an unbeaten 120.

    But then, in the semi-final against South Africa, Australia set a target of 213, which was clearly not enough. And South Africa were cruising in reply, at 0-48 after 12 overs. Australia looked cooked.

    And then Warne came into the attack, and ripped out Gibbs, Kirsten and Cronje in 8 balls.

    He returned later to dismiss Kallis as well, just when Australia needed a wicket. The game ended in a famous tie, but that was enough for Australia to advance to the final. Warne finished with 4/29 from 10 overs. He destroyed Pakistan in the final as well, taking 4/33.

    There’s no way that Australia win that WC without Warne. He just turned the game when Australia looked beaten.

  • Amazing write-up!
    your article is so convincing that I can’t stop myself to say something about it. You’re doing a great job Man, Keep it up.


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