More Almanac (Cricket) Sadness: Vale Shane Warne



Shane Warne has died. At 52.


His life, his mesmerizing life, that has spun forcefully and continuously like one of his iconic deliveries, that we have stared at, marvelled at, and tried to make sense of for decades, has dipped and skidded, and we’ve been caught in front. Flat footed. Head down.


Though it’s hard to picture him as an old man, his family and friends should’ve been given that chance. Parents have lost a son, kids have lost a dad and their mother is heartbroken, people have lost a mate, and cricket’s heart has a dull hole.


Given I was born in 1981, I did experience a few pre-Warne years as a cricket fan, and it was all about the fast bowling of the West Indies and the big hairy underdogs from Australia. If you were in the backyard, you’d just try to fling it down as hard as you could, and if you bowled spin, you were ripe for a flogging. While Curtly Ambrose and Merv Hughes impressions were rife, the best you could do off a short run up was Peter Taylor (or Sleep), Carl Hooper or Roger Harper. When England toured, you could giggle at Phil Tufnell – an average spinner and an even worse fielder.


In short, you couldn’t be aggressive, you couldn’t be cool and you couldn’t win matches as a spinner.


But by the mid-90s, everyone was bowling leg-breaks, wrong-uns and ‘zooters’.


Warne changed it all. The blond hair, the Nike Swoosh earring, the cheeky smile, the incredible skill and the fact that most grumpy old blokes seemed to think he was a bit up himself. As a Victorian, we loved that he loved footy and was ‘one of us’. His appeal to suburban wanna-be hoodlum kids was so pronounced, that England captain Alec Stewart once summoned him from the dressing room during a match in order to calm down the Bay 13 crowd at the MCG



As a fan who watched many hours of Australian cricket in TV and in person (including Warne’s 600th wicket at Old Trafford and his 700th at the MCG) during Warne’s career, he was the player you’d always want to see. For a period there in the mid 90s- mid 2000s, it seems like every Test Australia played seemed to culminate in Warne turning the screws in the fourth innings of a match. His former captain Mark Taylor acknowledges this, and often says “I always just made sure we had enough runs so I could just stand at slip and watch Warnie bowl them out”. Warne was ‘Great TV’ before people said that sort of thing about sport. His bowling was pure skill and his appealing, his ‘oohs’, his ‘aaahs’, his grunts and his rubbing of his hand in the dirt at the start of a spell was pure theatre.


Indeed, part of Warne’s charm was that he was ‘relatable’, though not in the sense that you could relate to him personally. It was more that, especially if you were an Aussie male who played team sport, there was always a guy at the club who was ‘next level’. Usually graced with the moniker of ‘Freak’ or ‘The Show/Showy/Show Bag/Bags/Bagga’ (one of Warne’s original nicknames of ‘Hollywood’ sits along here nicely) this guy usually displayed the best skills, often with seemingly minimal effort, while also being the most adept in chatting to women and was the first one invited to everyone’s bucks days (while being a 50/50 chance at best for a subsequent invite to the wedding). If there was a club function on, and you happened to miss it and had to rely on hazy recaps at the pool the next day, your first question would be, ‘what was Showy up to?’


In fact, if you pick up any piece of literature regarding the Australian cricket team between 1992-2007, be that a tour diary/autobiography or something a bit more meaty, Warne stands out like the shiny side of a Kookaburra. Each index item of ‘Warne, S’ is inevitably followed by enough numbers to cover a few weeks of lotto. Whether it’s a publisher pushing for some (blonde) highlights or whether the authors couldn’t help themselves, Warne is usually the axis in any given chapter. He’s either starring on the field, making news off it, is battling his insecurities of form and fitness, or is irritating the hell out of the team before winning the game for them.


Adam Gilchrist, in his autobiography True Colours: My Life cites the example of the morning of day five of the ‘Amazing Adelaide’ test in the 2006-07 Ashes, which Australia won in a big comeback, after most people at the start of the day tipped that the game would be a draw.


“During our warm-up Warnie was acting like he’d drunk about ten Red Bulls. He was nonstop, over the top, about how we could win. He kept gibbering, ‘We can do it, we can do it, we just need to get (a wicket) early.”


Gilchrist was also candid in describing his experience with Warne during the 1999 World Cup, where Warne had struggled for form early in the tournament and was seen to be moping after being dropped from the last test of the series against the West Indies earlier in the year. As the Aussies scraped through to the semi-final against South Africa, Warne produced his best spell in years and ‘went bananas’ after every wicket.


“It sums up what Warnie can do to you emotionally. One minute you’d be asking yourself why he was carrying on a certain way, and the next he was engineering one of the greatest experiences of your cricketing life. (He had that) uncanny genius for turning it on at precisely the moment when it was most needed. I was frustrated with Warnie for some of that tour, but I also owed him some amazing moments I will never forget.”


Despite his blazing bat, Gilchrist openly admits that while he was always cautious and pessimistic when viewing a game, Warne simply ‘believed in miracles’. In his book, Gilchrist also details a Sheffield Shield game where Warne sledged him relentlessly. While ‘Gilly’ could hold his own as a player and could acknowledge and work through their differing personalities, Warne was clearly a competitive force. While parallels with Australian sport and the documentary The Last Dance have become tiresome, there is something in how many of Warne’s teammates who spent years with him on the road describe their interactions with him as did, say, a Steve Kerr with Michael Jordan. Damien Fleming – a friend, former teammate and fellow Victorian – is very skilled in describing with amazement the world that revolved around Warne, which even flowed into his retirement years. As Warne began a relationship with Liz Hurley, Fleming reminisced about how the team used to love watching the VHS of the movie Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery while on the road, but only Warnie could end up dating the woman that left the whole tour bus spellbound.


Warne’s on-field highlights can be reeled off as short hand for any cricket fan of the last 30 years – be it the aforementioned victories, the Gatting ball, the Richie Richardson flipper, Daryl Cullinan, the MCG hat trick, the 700th wicket or his snaring of Basit Ali at the SCG in 1995 on the last ball of the day, where Warne met with wicket-keeper Ian Healy mid-pitch to whisper, seemingly, about a plan to get Ali out (Warne later revealed they discussed what they were having for dinner that night) before Warne went back and bowled him around his legs. This last highlight has been wheeled out regularly in recent years, whenever Warne was in the commentary box for the last ball of a day’s play. While this would grate slightly as a viewer, given the modern trend of commentators talking about themselves, deep down you still loved it because, like all of these highlights, it was pretty bloody amazing.


He could bat a bit too by the way. Every now and then he’d rip out a 70 or an 80-odd, usually in a manner of a guy who had asked the kids if he could join in a hit of beach cricket and then proceeded to try and whack every ball into the surf. His highest test innings of 99 famously ended when he tried to hit Daniel Vettori out of the WACA, with replays showing it would’ve been a no-ball had the umpire seen it. Warne was also an accomplished fielder in the slips, whether it was his famously strong wrists or his willingness to cement himself in the position to reduce the need for running in the field, he was very reliable (despite dropping what would’ve been Fleming’s second Test hat trick).


There were also the scandals – from being caught smoking while being a Nicorette ambassador (and being paid reportedly $200k to do so) to the public breakdown of his marriage to Simone Callahan and his serious cricketing charges of accepting money from a bookmaker to provide team/pitch information and his 12-month drug ban. While they will be rightfully explored in the coming days, the purpose of noting them here is to demonstrate the highs and lows that both he and those close to him lived through. There’s no doubt that these incidents, and other minor ones, added up to him not being seriously considered for the test captaincy. In way his story is a nod to our nation’s supposed love of the ‘larrikin’, but only to a certain point.


That Warne has passed away due to a heart attack, reportedly, will cause more Australian men to ponder their own health and lifestyle more than a billion dollars of advertising could ever achieve. Warne was the man who was famous for his simple diet, his ‘darts’ and a drink and there are WhatsApp groups all over the country today where men are now checking in on each other, while also quietly wondering if they should be checking in on themselves.


As one of Wisden’s five ‘cricketers of the century’ and with so many wickets and highlights to his name, Warne’s impact on a global sport (right through to his coaching of the Rajasthan Royals as inaugural IPL champions) is not in dispute. As a Melbournian who was a bit Showy, and who brought a bit of Hollywood to a gentle art in a genteel sport, he was someone we couldn’t stop watching. Whether there was a game in progress, or a headline that caught our eye, the question always was, ‘What’s Warnie up to?’


And now he’s gone.


Too soon.


Vale Shane Warne.




Read more from Andrew Else HERE.



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About Andrew Else

Andrew has self-reported to this site as a lifetime Essendon supporter. He also played local footy for Lara and Melbourne Uni Blacks.


  1. So much of what you have written here resonates Andrew. Of the many insights I like the section when he calms down Bay 13 (that huge Grade 10B2 Tech Drawing class). And the showman at the club archetype.


    We are all sad.

  2. E.regnans says

    Thanks, Andrew.

    What do we do?

    Keep throwing them up.
    Let’s bring in the long leg to save one, set a bat-pad and let this batsman know all about it.
    Right arm subterfuge, five to come,

  3. Fine tribute. He was unmissable at the bowling crease. When I got sick of the off field antics there was Gideon Haigh’s biography to remind me of his genius and to not be such a judgemental prick.
    To me Warne was Mozart, and we need them in a world of Salieri’s (at best).

  4. Lovely tribute Andrew. Still in denial here. Warney, in all his forms, just seemed to be a given. Grabbing headlines for various reasons. Looming large.

    Like many I’ll again delve into Gideon’s biography. My favourite passage is the one where he describes the pause at the top of Warney’s run and how it was the best pause in all of sport with its building of tension and psychological taunting.

    More than any other sporting figure I found Warney unmatchably compelling, and so watchable. One of his spells (good word here) possessed all the theatre an audience could want. There was drama and comedy and a protagonist with very human flaws who made cricket both existential and art.

  5. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks Andrew. Very good piece, containing many interesting insights.

    And Peter B – your ‘Warne was Mozart, and we need them in a world of Salieris’ comment was pure gold. Sometimes a mere few words are worth a thousand pictures!

  6. Warne was not only a great bowler but he did all his deeds with a completely legal action. Unfortunately the record for number of wickets is held by a certain bowler with a somewhat dubious bowling action – so much so that the rule had to be changed so that he was no longer branded a chucker. To me, Warne is the greatest ever spin bowler and not that other chap. You all know to whom I am referring.

  7. Great read

    Off field polarising, on field was a freak and the best cricketer I saw. He did things nobody else could do

  8. Well written Drewie.

    We used to love watching Warnie.
    Thanks for the article mate.


  9. Allan Barden says

    Wonderful and reflective piece Andrew.
    Agree with you totally Fisho

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