By Dennis Passa
Shane Warne, who was considered the greatest bowler in cricketing history and helped Australia win the World Cup in 1999, has died. He was 52 years old.
Fox Sports television, which employed Warne as a commentator, quoted a family statement early Saturday saying he died of a suspected heart attack in Koh Samui, Thailand.
“Shane was found unconscious in his villa and despite the best efforts of medical personnel, he could not be revived,” the statement said. “The family requests confidentiality at this time and will provide further details in due course.”
Thai police said Warne’s body had been transferred to Ko Samui Hospital for an autopsy. Police added that they found no wounds on Warne’s body.
Known as “Warnie”, Warne took 708 Test wickets in 145 matches for Australia from 1992 to 2007, second only to Sri Lanka great Muttiah Muralitharan’s 800 Test wickets in 133 matches.
“Spinning was a dying art, really, until Shane Warne came along,” cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew told the BBC.
Warne was also part of five winning Ashes teams against England during his career.
Warne made his Test debut at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1992 and became a key figure in every format during one of the greatest periods of sustained dominance by any team in world cricket.
He delivered the “Ball of the Century” with his first pitch of the 1993 Ashes Tour, Mike Gatting’s bowling with a ball that spun well outside the leg stump to cut the bail, instantly writing itself into folklore.
“It’s one of those wonderful highlights of the game,” Gatting said in 2018. “One of those pieces of history that doesn’t just belong to me, but probably to the greatest player of all time.”
Warne was noted as much for his life off the pitch as on it.
He was banned for a year in 2003 for taking a banned 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 pass 600 Test wickets.
In 1998 the Australian Cricket Board admitted that Warne and Mark Waugh had been fined for providing information to an Indian bookie during Australia’s 1994 tour of Sri Lanka.
Warne’s exploits off the pitch took their toll on his marriage and he separated from his wife Simone, the mother of his three children. He then dated and got engaged to English actress Liz Hurley in 2010. The couple eventually separated in 2013.
Born in Melbourne’s outer suburb of Upper Ferntree Gully, Warne first played representative cricket when he was awarded a scholarship to Mentone Grammar, representing the University of Melbourne club in the Dowling Shield Under-19 competition. 16 year old from the Victoria Cricket Association.
He then joined St. Kilda Cricket Club, near his home suburb of Black Rock. After a stint in Australian rules football at St. Kilda’s Under-19 team in 1988, where he made the reserve team and almost turned professional, Warne went to train at Australia Cricket Academy in Adelaide.
He made his professional debut in 1991 at Junction Oval in the match between Victoria and Western Australia.
That same year he was selected for Australia’s B team and toured Zimbabwe, where he scored his first innings at five or more wickets.
Warne’s death came just hours after expressing his sadness and condolences over the passing of another Australian cricketer. Former wicketkeeper Rodney Marsh died of a heart attack on Friday.
“Sad to hear the news of Rod Marsh’s passing,” Warne wrote on Twitter. “He was a legend of our great game and an inspiration to so many young boys and girls. Rod cared deeply about cricket and gave a lot – especially to Australian and England players. Sending lots and lots of love to Ros and the family. RIP buddy.”
The news of Warne’s defeat came as a shock to the players after the first day of play in the opening test in Pakistan.
“Two legends of our game left us too soon,” said Australian flyhalf David Warner. “I am at a loss for words, and it is extremely sad. My thoughts and prayers are with the Marsh and Warne family.”
Sachin Tendulkar, considered one of the best batsmen in the world along with former Australian great Don Bradman, said he was “shocked, stunned and miserable”.
“I will miss you Warnie,” Tendulkar wrote on Twitter. The Indians had a special place for you. Gone too young!”
West Indian great Brian Lara echoed Tendulkar’s comment.
“Speechless at the moment,” Lara said. “I literally don’t know how to sum this up. My friend is gone!! We have lost one of the greatest sportsmen of all time!! My condolences go out to his family. RIP Warnie!! We will miss you.”
AP Sports writer Steve Douglas in Sundsvall, Sweden, and Associated Press reporter Chalida Ekvittayavechnukul in Nakhon, Thailand, contributed to this report.
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