No foreign cricketer is likely to capture the hearts of Sri Lankans like Shane Warne did.
Yet of all the heartfelt tributes paid to the big spin on the island he helped rebuild after the worst natural disaster in its history, the late big spin might have been most affected by a moment of calm in the small village of Seenigama this week.
In early 2005, at the request of Muttiah Muralidaran, Warne had visited the seaside community on Sri Lanka’s south coast, one of many that had been leveled by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004.
Among the most memorable visions captured by a 60 Minutes film crew during their visit was four-year-old Dilini Wasana kissing Warne on the cheek as he handed out food and toys.
On Monday, four months after the sudden death of the Victorian, Dilini was in the same place where she had met Warne seventeen years ago.
This time, she greeted her brother Jason, who was visiting the Kindness Foundation; the epitome of Shane’s contribution to the country.
“It was quite emotional,” said Jason Warne, standing on a small cricket pitch the Foundation built in the wake of the tsunami.
“We’re here because of what Shane did in 2004. It was great to come here and understand why he wanted to do it.
“(From) the footage that came out of Shane’s visit, there was a little girl (Dilini) who gave him a kiss on the cheek, you could tell she was so happy.
“She said she wished she could say thank you one more time. To go out there today and see her was pretty special.”
The spin legend’s 2005 visit to Sri Lanka brought to light the destruction of lives, homes and the Galle cricket ground where Warne had won his 500th Test wicket less than a year earlier.
This sparked a wave of donations from Australia and his continued efforts in the years that followed have not been forgotten.
Kushil Gunasekera, the longtime director of Muralidaran who runs the Kindness Foundation, has used the proceeds to build community facilities at 10 sites in rural areas of Sri Lanka.
One of the graduates of the Foundation’s educational programs was Ramesh Mendis, who was born in nearby Ambalangoda and whose deflection saw him take four wickets against Australia in the first Test last week.
“He was the first to come,” Gunasekera said of Shane on Monday, as he gave Jason and his wife Shay a two-hour tour of Seenigama’s school, health, dental and athletic facilities.
“What Shane did when he came on with 60 minutes, and because of the way he presented the case, it went around Australia.
“And as a result, the master builders came, the Victorian government came, and we were able to get help from so many people.”
Since the passing of his brother, Jason Warne has heard countless stories, tributes and messages of gratitude from around the world about the impact the spinning leg has had on the lives of others.
For the first test in Galle, the ground for which the late Warne had helped raise $1 million, posters with his and Muralidaran’s faces were placed around the ground while seven members of the World Cup-winning squad 1996 from Sri Lanka were on hand for a pre-play commemorative plaque presentation.
“It was hard not to notice all the portraits of Warnie all around the ground,” said Mitchell Swepson, one of the few cricketers to play Test cricket for Australia from Warne.
“All the work he has done for the tsunami fund in Sri Lanka, he has had a huge impact on this country with his cricket and off the pitch as well. It was great to see them pay tribute and to see how much they respect the man
“I’m in no way fit or fit to try to be Shane Warne, he’s the best we’ve ever had…but when people ask me what I’m doing and I tell them I’m turning my legs at the bowl, it’s “Oh, like Warnie”.
“It’s just the mark he left on the game, he’s a legend.”
Some tributes even surprised Jason Warne, including the announcement by the United Nations at the MCG’s memorial service that a Wildlife Conversation Grant would be named in honor of the late cricketer.
“It’s sometimes hard to understand that my brother, who I used to go to the net with and have a little fun with, left such a legacy,” Warne said.
Qantas Tour of Sri Lanka, 2022
Sri Lanka Test Team (provisional): Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Pathum Nissanka, Oshada Fernando, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kamindu Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, Dinesh Chandimal, Ramesh Mendis, Chamika Karunaratne, Kasun Rajitha, Vishwa Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Dilshan Madushanka, Praveen Jayawickrama, Lasith Embuldeniya, Jeffrey Vandersay. Stand-by players: Dunith Wellalage, Lakshitha Rasanjana.
Australia Test Team: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson , David Warner. Substitute players: Jon Holland, Matthew Kuhnemann, Todd Murphy
June 29 – July 3: First test, Galle, 2:30 p.m. AEST
July 8-12: Second test, Galle, 2:30 p.m. AEST
Sri Lanka’s Test matches against Australia will be shown live on Fox Cricket and Kayo Sports
June 7: Australia won the first T20 by 10 wickets
June 8: Australia won the second T20 by three wickets
June 11: Sri Lanka won the third T20 by four wickets
June 14: Australia won the first ODI by two wickets (DLS)
June 16: Sri Lanka won the second ODI by 26 points (DLS)
June 19: Sri Lanka won the third ODI by six wickets
June 21st: Sri Lanka won the fourth ODI by four points
June 24: Australia won the fifth ODI by four wickets
Results Australia A
Australia A team: Scott Boland, Aaron Hardie, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Henry Hunt, Josh Inglis, Matthew Kuhnemann, Nic Maddinson, Nathan McAndrew, Todd Murphy, Jimmy Peirson, Josh Philippe, Matt Renshaw, Tanveer Sangha, Mark Steketee
Sri Lanka One Day Team: Dhananjaya de Silva (c), Niroshan Dickwella, Lahiru Udara, Lasith Croospulle, Oshada Fernando, Pabasara Waduge, Kamindu Mendis, Ashen Bandara, Janitha Liyanage, Sahan Arachchi, Pulina Tharanga, Dunith Wellalage, Dananjaya Lakshan, Shiran Fernando (will not play in injuries), Dilshan Madushanka, Pramod Madushan, Nishan Madushka, Ashen Daniel, Nisala Tharaka
June 8: Australia Won by seven wickets
June 10: Sri Lanka Won by four wickets
June 14-17: Australia Won by 68 runs
June 21-24: Australia Won by five wickets