Shane Warne, who was considered to be the greatest bowler in cricket history and helped Australia win the World Cup in 1999, has died. He was 52.
Fox Sports television, which employed Warne as a commentator, quoted a family statement early Saturday as saying he died of a suspected heart attack in Koh Samui, Thailand.
“Shane was found unresponsive in his villa and despite the best efforts of medical staff, he could not be revived,” the statement said. “The family requests privacy at this time and will provide further details in due course.”
Known as “Warnie,” Warne took 708 test wickets in 145 matches for Australia from 1992-2007, second only to Sri Lanka great Muttiah Muralitharan’s 800 test wickets from 133 matches.
“Spinning was a dying art, really, till Shane Warne came along,” cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew told the BBC.
Warne was also part of five Ashes-winning teams against England during his career.
Warne made his test debut at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1992 and rose to become a key figure across all formats in one of the greatest sustained periods of dominance by any team in world cricket.
He delivered the “Ball of the Century” with his first toss of the 1993 Ashes tour, bowling Mike Gatting with a ball that turned from well outside leg stump to clip the off bail, instantly writing himself into folklore.
“It’s one of those wonderful highlights of the game,” Gatting said in 2018. “One of those bits of history that belongs not only to me but to probably the best legspinner of all time.”
Warne was noted as much for his life off the field as on it.
He was banned for a year in 2003 for taking a prohibited 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 take 600 test wickets.
In 1998, the Australian Cricket Board admitted that Warne and Mark Waugh were fined for providing information to an Indian bookmaker during Australia’s tour of Sri Lanka in 1994.
Warne’s exploits off the field took their toll on his marriage and he split from wife Simone, the mother of his three children. He later had a relationship and became engaged to English actress Liz Hurley in 2010. The pair eventually split in 2013.
Born in the outer Melbourne suburb of Upper Ferntree Gully, Warne first played representative cricket when he was granted a scholarship to Mentone Grammar, representing the University of Melbourne Club in the Victoria Cricket Association under-16 Dowling Shield competition.
He then joined the St. Kilda Cricket Club, near his home suburb of Black Rock. After a stint in Australian rules football at the St. Kilda under-19 team in 1988, where he made the reserve team and almost turned pro, Warne went to train at the 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 the Australian B team and toured Zimbabwe, where he scored his first five-or-more-wickets innings.
Warne’s death came only a few hours after he expressed his sadness and condolences following the passing of another Australian cricketer. Former wicketkeeper Rodney Marsh died Friday from a heart attack.
“Sad to hear the news that Rod Marsh has passed,” Warne wrote on Twitter. “He was a legend of our great game & and inspiration to so many young boys and girls. Rod cared deeply about cricket & gave so much – especially to Australia & England players. Sending lots & lots of love to Ros & the family. RIP mate.”
The news of Warne’s loss came as a shock to players after the first day of play in the opening test in Pakistan.
“Two legends of our game have left us too soon,” Australia opener David Warner posted. “I’m lost for words, and this is extremely sad. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Marsh and Warne family.”
Sachin Tendulkar, considered one of the world’s best batsmen along with former Australian great Don Bradman, said he was “shocked, stunned & miserable.”
“Will miss you Warnie,” Tendulkar wrote on Twitter. “There was never a dull moment with you around, on or off the field. Will always treasure our on field duels & off field banter. You always had a special place for India & 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 up this situation. My friend is gone!! We have lost one of the Greatest Sportsmen of all time!! My condolences goes out to his family. RIP Warnie!! You will be missed.”
—Dennis Passa, The Associated Press