For those of us who are into cricket, Shane Warne, love him or loathe him, is a very special entity. Now, on the brink of retirement, he is going out with a bang – over 700 test wickets and 999 international wickets in the bag is no mean feat and is a ‘first’ for any cricketer anywhere on the planet.

His undistinguished Test debut against India in 1991 accounted for the wicket of Ravi Shastri and returned the figures of 1 for 228 off 45 overs and in his next Test – against Sri Lanka – his first innings figures were a sorry 0 for 107. However, his bowling in the second innings in Colombo accounted for 3 wickets for 11 runs, contributed immensely to what had seemed to be an unlikely Aussie win and surely must have solidified his place in the team. Not long after this was when he bowled Mike Gatting around his legs in the 1993 Ashes series with what was described as “the ball of the century” and his reputation as a champion bowler was well on its way.

As Warne’s cricketing excellence continued, his personal life was also the subject of intense scrutiny and made public by the press, as ever, voracious in its demand for salacious reading matter with which to titillate their readership. His ‘affairs’, sexually explicit text messages and phone calls to a variety of women were lapped up by the public and finally his use of a banned substance contributed to him being debarred from the game for one year. Many of us may feel that the private life of larger than life public figures should be their personal business and that exposure of personal matters should be more deserving of sympathy than censure. However, this is not the way the world works and the view that all ‘news’ must be part of the public domain has its merits as well.

However, Warne persevered, and return he did with his customary ‘attitude’ and also with his customary success. As he matured, his reputation as an ‘entertainer’ was also enhanced due to his on-field antics – the appealing ‘acts’, the intimidatory tactics, the expressions of dismay and disgust at umpires’ decisions, the glare at the batsmen and the celebrations at capturing wickets. He also developed an easy style when being interviewed and generally ‘mellowed out’. The relationship he had with our very own Murali in the aftermath of the tsunami, his visits to the devastated areas and pledges towards assistance also showed him up in a different light. He even ‘made up’ with Arjuna Ranatunge after the volatile relationship they had bad-mouthing each other during their times on the field and off. In general, he made himself a different character to what he was earlier on in his career.

Now, at the twilight of his illustrious career, he appears to be bowling as well as he ever did. Just a few minutes ago he had Kevin Pieterson flummoxed with a beauty and ended his penultimate Test match with a match-bag of 7 wickets, helping the Aussies on towards a whitewash of the English team in this Ashes series. And with one more match to go to end his unique career, he has 999 international wickets to his credit.

I’m sure that we will all miss this unique and incredibly talented individual – arguably the best spin bowler in the history of cricket and most certainly the best ever leg-spinner the world has ever known. So it’s one more match for Warnie and for sure it will be one to remember.

Here’s some information from Wikipedia for those interested:

Shane Keith Warne (born 13 September 1969 in Upper Ferntree Gully, Victoria, Australia), is an Australian cricketer, and captain of Hampshire. He is generally regarded to be the greatest leg-spin bowler in cricket history. [1]

In 2000, he was selected by a panel of cricket experts as one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century. Warne despite being plagued by scandals off the field throughout his playing career, has — since October 2004 — held the record for the most wickets taken by any bowler in Test cricket. On 26 December 2006 he became the first bowler to take 700 Test wickets, making him the most successful bowler in the history of Test cricket.

On 21 December 2006, at a press conference at the MCG, he announced his retirement from all forms of cricket in Australia and will play his final match in the fifth Test of the 2006-07 Ashes series at the Sydney Cricket Ground. He will continue to play for Hampshire for another two years. [2]

• He was chosen as one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Year for 1994.

• In 2000, Warne was named by a 100-member panel of experts as the fourth of five Wisden Cricketers of the Century. Warne received 27 votes, behind Sir Donald Bradman (100 votes), Sir Garfield Sobers (90 votes), and Sir Jack Hobbs (30 votes). Sir Viv Richards took the fifth place, with 25 votes. He is the only Wisden Cricketer of the Century who has not been knighted.

• Warne is one of two Australian cricketers currently playing the game to have been named in “Richie Benaud’s Greatest XI” in 2004 (Adam Gilchrist was the other).

• In 2005 he was named as winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Overseas Personality for his performance in the 2005 Ashes.

• Warne appeared on the 6th and 7th July episode of the popular Australian soap Neighbours on behalf of his charitable foundation.

• In 2006 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Southampton Solent University for services to cricket.

• He is a huge fan of the St Kilda Football Club and wanted to play with them when he was younger (he played in their 2nd’s side).

• Former Australian Test Cricket captain Kim Hughes described Warne as the “Donald Bradman of bowling” following the announcement of Warne’s intention to retire. [10]