The shocking demise of the self-defined spin master, Shane Warne, brought unimaginable despair to his admirers across the globe, who have known him as an excellent cricketer, meticulous commentator, dedicated mentor and, above all, a fun-loving person
What lamps ceased to burn; what hearts ceased to breathe. 'Sudden death' is a term used in football, which defines the result of a match in split seconds. Agony for one team and ecstasy for the other.
In life, sudden death is benumbing, as witnessed in the departure of the wizard Shane Warne in Koh Samui, Thailand. Call it shock, call it unbelievable, call it fate, or the will of God, Warne's exit leaves billions of fans around the world in a daze.
For a man so full of life, on and off the field, so colourful in his approach and so filled with fun, Warne's sudden death brings into focus once again the vagaries of life.
They say, life and death are inevitable. At 52, Warne's passing away has shown nothing is certain. For a man who created so many uncertainties in the life of many batsmen on the pitch, Warne was the master of his craft. Yet, who would have thought Warne would leave so fast.
Leg spin, by nature, is tantalising in cricket. There have been many exponents of leg spin, some traditional, some unorthodox in approach. Shane Warne defined leg spin in his own way, bamboozling batsmen like none else. Cricket is a sport where stats tell us quite a bit. It can capture facts in terms of runs scored, fours hit and sixes smashed. And if it's bowling, averages, wickets taken, economy rate and so on come into play.
With Warne, one does not need to get into statistics. His departure has been as painful as that of superstars like Diego Maradona and Formula One legend Ayrton Senna. Maradona's death was kind of expected, as the lavish lifestyle and care-a-damn attitude was fraught with risks. In Senna's death, in 1994, what came to the fore was how motorsport is so risky and every second behind the wheel of a Formula One car or on the seat of a bike, is being so close to death.
For those who have followed the sporting legends in their active life and after, each story is fascinating. If you have heard of Maradona's left-foot wizardry and ability to hoodwink opposition, Senna was the speed king. In fact, there are many who stopped watching F1 for years after his demise as it was so benumbing.
What does one say of Warne, just 52? He was bubbly, he was chubby, and he was full of bubbles. There was life in whatever he did, unmindful of the fact that bowling leg spin can be expensive. But then, for a man with the swagger of a billionaire, Warne was a debonair as well as a rockstar. He never cared about getting hit, and enough has been written about the way he took on two of the best batsmen of the world — Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara.
The outpouring of grief after Warne breathed his last, in what has been medically confirmed as a heart attack, has left the world stunned. There have been three Aussie cricketers who have died within a gap of two years, Dean Jones and Rod Marsh, on the same day as Warne. When Jones departed in Mumbai, where he was on a commentary assignment, it was simply shocking.
But here was Warne, who had gone to Koh Samui in Thailand with friends just to have fun. The freakish stories which did rounds after Warne's death on social media deserve condemnation. Not only is it an intrusion into his private life but, as eventually confirmed by the post mortem, he died following a heart attack. Attempts to administer him CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) were of no use. In minutes he was gone, as if this was a horror script being written which would have never got approved.
Conversations on Warne and around Warne still continue. His departure has left the world stunned, and they are not just cricket fans. Such was the Aussie hero's appeal, he cut across all boundaries. From health freaks to cardiologists, each one is trying to come up with his own postulate as to what could have caused his death.
To say that Warne did not focus on fitness would be a lie. He knew he had to be super fit, physically and mentally, though you cannot compare him with today's T20 cricketers who, in the name of fitness, look far too skinny. Warne also was not the sort of guy who you could have imagined pumping iron in the gym like today's generation.
He defined his own fitness standards, though his methods were quite extreme. For someone who was on the heavier side at six feet, Warne did crazy stuff like going on crash diets and doing something as crazy as sticking to just liquid deaths to lose weight. All this is back in focus as the world grapples to figure out what caused the heart attack. There is confirmation it was not alcohol or drugs which caused Warne's heart to pack up. What caused it can be left to debates, though, for his fans, it hardly matters.
There are various types of bowlers in the world. If you talk of fast bowlers, one associates it with speed, aggression, bounce and glaring at the batsmen 22 yards away. No, Warne was not like that. He smiled; he had his tongue sticking out. Yet, when he came to release the ball, the spin and sheer unpredictability of trajectory terrorised batsmen.
To say he was unplayable would be wrong. A batsman like Sachin has won desert duels with him in the United Arab Emirates. Warne's magic lay in his variety, his copious turn and how he could psyche out the batsmen. He did it in red ball cricket and white-ball cricket. In 145 Tests, he had 708 wickets and in 194 ODIs, he had 293 wickets.
There are any number of videos on YouTube where one can relive and rejoice the way Warne bowled. He was a terror with each delivery he unleashed. If there was one factor which bugged batsmen the most while facing Warne, it was not knowing what the Aussie would produce. People talk of variety, using bounce, rough on the pitch and so on. Yet, when Warne bowled, it was poetry in motion. There was no ugly celebration after dismissing batsmen, as taking wickets has become a habit for him.
Talk of popularity and charisma, Warne was universally loved. Everyone knows that the rivalry between Australia and England has been for ages. It is as aggressive as the one between India and Pakistan. Yet, Warne had far too many fans in England and he was ready to converse with anyone.
Was Warne a great analyst? Certainly, yes. His commentary was lucid and so full of life, which was thoroughly enjoyable on Sky Sports.
And what about Warne's connect with India. That is what has made millions in India cry so much as he brought in spunk when associated with Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League. Players who have interacted with Warne vouch for his skills of a different sort, where he was a mentor par excellence. His friendship with the man who started IPL, Lalit Modi, is well known.
In the good old days, when the first few editions of the IPL were held, a lot of conversation revolved around after-match parties and nightlife. Warne was colourful and never tried to conceal his love for fun. He smoked heavily and he did drink. Yet, you could not hold anything against him as what he did away from the field never affected his game.
Warne's bond with India and Indians is very special. His popularity will continue as he has left behind such a rich legacy. If Maradona and Senna were immortal, so is Warne.
You have still got to pinch yourself sometimes to believe Warne's departure was sudden death. In football, sudden death means the team can come back later, some day. Sadly, that will not be the case with Shane Warne, cricket's own rockstar who was (no, is) loved so lavishly by the world.
Views expressed are personal
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