Scandalous. Salacious. Spin. Three words which perfectly describe one cricketing enigma going by the name Shane Keith Warne. Unarguably, one of the greatest players to have ever graced the game, Warne made headlines throughout his career. Born on 13th September 1969 in a suburb of Melbourne, Warne spun a magic weave around various batsmen. Despite the various controversies which sometimes blighted his brilliance, there is no denying that nobody in the history of the game made the ball talk more than the abrasive Australian. On his 50th birthday, we take a look at some of the biggest achievements from a storied career.
Ball of the century
A young Warne astounded the cricketing world by bowling a delivery which is still remembered fondly to this very day. During the second Test of the 1993 Ashes series in Manchester, Warne left legendary English batter Mike Gatting in shock at the events which had transpired. The delivery from Warne first took a sharp drift and pitched several inches outside the leg-stump. It then took a sharp and lethal turn, clipping the top of the off-tump. Gatting was left staggered, staring at the pitch for several seconds, finally accepting his fate and walked back to the pavilion. The delivery not only launched Warne’s career, who had only played 11 Test matches prior to the game but also revived the art of leg-spin. Australia ended up winning the game 179 runs and dominated the series, taking a 4-1 victory.
Spinning Australia to a World Cup triumph
The talk prior to the 1999 World Cup final between Australia and Pakistan had revolved the pace battery of the Men in Green. But it was Warne who showcased his prowess with the ball at Lord’s, spinning Australia to their second World Cup triumph. With Australia bowling first, Warne registered figures of 4-33 in his 10 overs. His efforts restricted Pakistan to a score of 132 all-out. The Aussies comfortably chased the target in only 20.1 overs and Warne was adjudged Man-of-the-Match for his brilliant spell. Warne also ended up as the joint-highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 20 wickets.
Return from a doping suspension
When Warne was handed a 1-year suspension before the start of the 2003 World Cup for violating a doping code, many predicted that his career was all but over. Warne retired from ODI cricket, in order to prolong his Test career, a move which paid great dividends. Making his comeback against Sri Lanka in March 2004, Warnie spun Australia to a commanding 3-0 series victory. He picked up 5-wicket hauls in the 1st and 2nd innings of both the first two Test matches in Galle and Kandy. He then picked up 6 wickets in the final Test match in Colombo to end up with 26 wickets on his comeback series. The talk of Warnie’s career demise was well and truly premature.
Scaling the 700 wickets mountain
The 2006-07 Ashes was a grudge series for the Australians. After losing the Ashes in 2005, all the players were fired up to not only regain the urn but to humiliate England. This turned out to be Warne’s curtain call in international cricket, as he would retire at the end of the series. In front of almost 90,000 spectators in his home ground of MCG at Melbourne during the Boxing Day Test, Warne became the first man to pick up 700 Test wickets. He bowled English opener Andrew Strauss with a classical Warne delivery. Bowling from over the wicket, the ball took a sharp turn and castled up Strauss. The crowd then erupted and gave Warne a standing ovation. Warne would pick up 23 wickets in his final series, ending his career with 708 Test scalps as Australia romped home to a 5-0 series victory.
Leading Rajasthan Royals to an IPL triumph
Before the start of the 2008 IPL, Rajasthan Royals were well and truly positioned as the underdogs. They had many unheralded names on their roster but in the form of Warne, had a charismatic and inspirational leader. Warne never got to captain Australia but led from the front as a leader as well as a bowler. Rajasthan Royals shocked the world, beating the much-more fancied Chennai Super Kings in the final to win the inaugural edition of the IPL. Under Warne’s mentorship, many unfancied names such as Swapnil Asnodkar, Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan emerged as players to watch out for in international cricket. Shane Watson, Rajasthan’s star performer would also end up becoming a cornerstone of the Australian team for years to come. Warne also himself did not lose his magic touch with the ball, picking up 19 wickets in 15 matches.