Shane Warne, one of cricketers’ iconic players, dies aged 52

Former Australian cricketer Shane Warne April 14, 2004. Shane Warne, one of the greatest cricketers in history, has died.  He was 52 years old.  Fox Sports television, which employed Warne as a commentator, quoted a family statement saying he died of a suspected heart attack in Koh Samui, Thailand.  (Chris Young/PA via AP)

Former Australian cricketer Shane Warne April 14, 2004. Shane Warne, one of the greatest cricketers in history, has died. He was 52 years old. Fox Sports television, which employed Warne as a commentator, quoted a family statement saying he died of a suspected heart attack in Koh Samui, Thailand. (Chris Young/PA via AP)

PA

Shane Warne, widely regarded as one of the greatest players, shrewdest tacticians and ultimate competitors in cricket’s long history, has died. He was 52 years old.

Known in the cricketing world as “Warnie”, he revived and elevated the art of leg spin bowling when he emerged onto the international scene in the 1990s and was a central figure in one of Australia’s most successful eras in sport. He was also one of cricket’s larger than life showmen.

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.

Cricket Australia described Warne as “a true cricketing genius”.

“Shane’s strength of character and enormous resilience saw him bounce back from career-threatening finger and shoulder injuries, and his stamina and will to win, as well as his self-confidence were key factors in the great Australian side of the late 1990s and early 2000s.”

Thai police say a friend staying at the same resort went to see Warne when the cricketer star hadn’t arrived for dinner and found him unconscious at the villa. Warne was taken by ambulance to the Thai International Hospital but could not be revived. His body was transferred to Ko Samui hospital for an autopsy.

The Australian men’s national team were notified of Warne’s death after playing on day one of the series-opening Test match against Pakistan at Rawalpindi.

“We all grew up watching Warnie, idolizing him,” Australia captain Pat Cummins said. “What we loved so much about Warnie was his showmanship, his charisma, his tactics, the way he wanted himself and the team around him to win games for Australia.

“The game was never the same after Warnie emerged and the game will never be the same after he passed away. Rest in peace, King.”

Warne held the record for most Test wickets (708) when he retired in 2007 after his 145th game. Only Muttiah Muralitharan, non-spinner from Sri Lanka, passed him, with 800.

“Spinning was a dying art, really, until Shane Warne came along,” famed cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew told the BBC.

Highlights of his career include consecutive player of the match awards in the semi-finals and final of the 1999 Cricket World Cup, being included among the five cricketers of the 20th century by Wisden, familiarly known like the bible of sport, and being part of five Ashes winning teams against England. He also played in 194 one-day international matches.

Warne made a disappointing Test debut against India in Sydney in 1992 but quickly became a key figure in every format during one of the greatest periods of sustained dominance of any team in world cricket.

He had racked up career numbers of 1-335 by the time he was asked to bowl in the second leg of his third Test, against Sri Lanka in 1992, and he finished the game taking three wickets without concede a run in 13 deliveries to secure an unlikely and narrow victory.

Warne would often receive the ball when Australia were struggling or desperate for a wicket, and so often he was able to turn games around with a mesmerizing bowling spell,

He wrote himself into folklore when he delivered the “Ball of the Century” with his first pitch of the 1993 Ashes tour, bowling Mike Gatting with a delivery that swung away from the leg stump to cut the bond.

“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.

Just before the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, he was banned for 12 months for taking a banned substance, which he said was in a diuretic his mother had given him 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 confirmed that Warne and Mark Waugh had been fined four years earlier for providing pitch and weather information to an Indian bookmaker 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.

Warne’s death came just hours after expressing his sadness and condolences over the passing of another Australian great, wicketkeeper Rodney Marsh, aged 74.

“He was a legend of our great game and an inspiration to so many young boys and girls,” Warne said on Twitter. “Rod cared deeply about cricket and gave so much, especially to the Australian and England players. Sending lots and lots of love to Ros and the family. RIP mate.”

Following the shocking news of Warne’s death, tributes poured in from iconic cricket stars and high profile fans including Mick Jagger and actor Russell Crowe.

“I will miss you Warnie,” Indian great Sachin Tendulkar posted on Twitter. because India and the Indians had a special place for you. Gone too young!”

West Indies great Brian Lara echoed Tendulkar.

“My friend is gone!!” Lara said. “We have lost one of the greatest sportsmen of all time!! RIP Warnie!! We will miss you.”

Born in Upper Ferntree Gully near Melbourne, Warne showed prodigious talent from an early age and won an athletic scholarship to a prestigious high school. After a brief attempt to become a professional Australian rules football player in 1988, he went to train at the Australian Cricket Academy in Adelaide and made his first class debut in 1991.

Warne is survived by his children Jackson, Brooke and Summer, his parents Bridgette and Keith and his brother Jason.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, backed by the Australian Federal Government, offered a state funeral.

“Nobody who saw Shane Warne play will ever forget him,” Andrews said. “To us he was the greatest – but to his family he was so much more. Our hearts break for Shane’s family and friends.

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Associated Press reporter Chalida Ekvittayavechnukul in Bangkok and AP sportswriters John Pye in Brisbane, Australia, Foster Niumata in London and Steve Douglas in Sundsvall, Sweden contributed to this report.

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Naomi C. Amerson