10 Lowlights in the Life and Times of Shane Warne
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Legendary Australia tweaker Shane Warne celebrated his 44th birthday on Friday, and the Victorian will have much to look back on and cherish from his time in the game.
However, it has not all been a bed of roses for the greatest leg spinner the world has ever seen, as these 10 lowlights from his 22-year career demonstrate.
10: A Debut to Forget
Warne made his Test debut for Australia against India in the New Year’s Day Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in January 1992, and he could not have asked for a more spin-friendly surface on which to bowl.
However, it is fair to say that it did not quite go according to plan for the 22-year-old, who sent down 45 overs in the tourists’ first innings, taking one for 150 in the process, as Ravi Shastri and a young Sachin Tendulkar tucked into his bowling with relish.
9: Dropped for the First Time
The Victorian somehow managed to survive that ordeal at the SCG to retain his place in the side for the fourth Test in Adelaide, but after going wicketless for the entire match, the Australian selectors had clearly already seen enough, and Warne was unceremoniously dropped for the final Test in Perth.
And crazy as it may sound looking back now, the leg spinner was then in and out of the side until his breakthrough moment came a year later against West Indies at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with the only other time Warne was dropped from the team coming on the tour of the Caribbean in 1999.
8: Final Heartache
Mark Taylor’s Australia were overwhelming favourites to win the 1996 World Cup final against surprise finalists Sri Lanka in Lahore, especially as they had the world’s great spinner in their lineup on a dusty subcontinental track.
However, nothing went to plan for the Aussies and in particular Warne, who first failed with the bat when sent in up the order to act as a pinch hitter, making just two runs before being ignominiously stumped off the bowling of a then relatively unknown Muttiah Muralitharan.
And when it came to the leg spinner’s turn to bowl his side to an expected victory as the underdogs chased down 242 runs for victory, Warne was introduced early into proceedings with the Sri Lankans wobbling on 23 for two.
But the tweaker was to prove totally ineffective with the ball as well on his way to disappointing figures of none for 58 from his allotted 10 overs, as Sri Lanka ran out comfortable seven-wicket winners in what was one of the biggest upsets in the final of the competition.
7: Match-Fixing Allegations
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In December 1998, the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) stunned the cricketing world by announcing that it had fined both Warne and batsman Mark Waugh for providing information to an Indian bookmaker on pitch conditions and the possible make-up of the Australia team during a one-day international tournament in Sri Lanka in 1994.
Both players were heavily fined by the ACB, and the incident subsequently proved to be a black mark on the leg spinner’s career.
6: Warne’s World Falls Apart
Perhaps the lowest point of Warne’s 15-year international career came in February 2003 when the leg spinner was sent home from the World Cup in South Africa after testing positive for a banned diuretic.
It later turned out that Warne had been given the drug by his mother to help him lose weight ahead of the tournament and was not performance-enhancing in any way.
However, the tweaker never played ODI cricket for his country again, while as if to make matters worse, Ricky Ponting’s side went on to retain the World Cup after beating India in the final.
5: Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
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Despite delivering his greatest-ever series of displays for his country in the 2005 Ashes in England, when Warne captured a personal-best haul of 40 wickets against the old enemy, the player’s life was falling apart off the field.
And three years later, Warne admitted that he would often drink heavily in the team hotel after the end of a day’s play before crying himself to sleep due to the imminent break-up of his marriage.
4: Ugly Spat with Buchanan
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Warne had a long-running dispute with Australia coach John Buchanan during their time working together, despite the latter’s impressive record of 25 Test series wins across a seven-year period while in charge of the team.
However, the leg spinner never rated Buchanan, and, just before his retirement from the Test arena, Warne made public his feelings about his coach, telling the Sydney Morning Herald in an explosive interview in December 2006:
Everything that I have read that he (Buchanan) says, he is living in pixieland.
It just shows what us players had to put up with John Buchanan. We had to listen to his verbal diarrhoea all the time.
He is just a goose and has no idea and lacks common sense.
However, in the end it was Warne who was made to look foolish in this undignified episode, especially given Buchanan’s exemplary record and the lack of support the spinner received in this matter from his teammates, who in contrast praised the Australia coach.
3: Thank You for Smoking
Warne caused controversy on the 1997 Ashes tour of England when he was photographed by some teenage boys smoking a cigarette, having supposedly given up smoking after accepting sponsorship from a nicotine patch company.
2: Text Pest
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In August 2000 Warne was stripped of the Australian Test vice-captaincy after being caught sending erotic text messages to a British nurse, while five years later his marriage to Simone Callahan came to an end after more of his affairs became public knowledge.
However, these lewd stories continued to dog the leg spinner for the rest of his career, with first the News of the World publishing pictures of Warne in his underpants with a pair of 25-year-old models on May 7 2006 as well as the contents of more explicit text messages that he had allegedly sent the two girls.
And finally, after Warne had seemingly got back together with Simone in April 2007, the couple then finally broke up for the last time after the spinner had mistakenly sent a text message meant for another women to her phone instead in September of that year.
1: The Greatest Test Captain Australia Never Had
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Warne was always thought to be the greatest Test skipper that the Aussies never had, with the leg spinner possessing one of the shrewdest cricketing brains the game has ever seen.
This could be seen clearly when he captained the Aussies in one-day cricket, with Warne ending with an impressive overall record of 10 wins and just one loss in the limited-overs game, while he also excelled while in charge of both Hampshire and the Royals.
However, it was the captaincy of the Test side that Warne most craved, and while he was elevated to the role of vice-captain to Steve Waugh following Mark Taylor’s retirement as skipper after the 1998/99 Ashes, he was soon stripped of the role after yet more allegations of inappropriate text messages in August 2000.