Pat Cummins described Shane Warne as an “once-in-a-century type cricketer” after the former Australia leg-spinner’s death at the age of 52 following a suspected heart attack.
Tributes have flooded in from the world of cricket and beyond for a larger-than-life character who was the first to 700 Test wickets, eventually settling for 708 in 145 matches, bettered only by contemporary rival Muttiah Muralitharan.
A pioneer who revived legbreak bowling amid a downturn in the couple of decades before he burst on to the scene in 1992, Warne was revered by many, including Cummins, across a glittering 15-year international career.
Australia Test captain Cummins, currently touring Pakistan, said in a video posted on Cricket Australia’s Twitter: “Warnie was an all-time great, a once-in-a-century type of cricketer and his record will live on forever.
“We all grew up watching Warnie, idolizing him, we all had posters on our wall, had his earrings. We loved so much his showmanship, his charisma, his tactics. He just willed himself and his team to win games for Australia.
“So many guys in this squad still hold him as a hero, their all-time favorite player. The loss we’re all trying to wrap our heads around is huge. The game was never the same after Warnie emerged and the game will never be the same after his passing from him. Rest in peace, King.”
With an instrumental Warne in their ranks, Australia won six Ashes series in a row and were the dominant force in cricket for more than a decade from the mid-1990s in both Tests and one-day internationals.
Adam Gilchrist was also a central pillar in their hegemony and the wicketkeeper-batter, while reeling from the devastating news, reflected with pride that he and predecessor Ian Healy were stumpers for Warne.
He wrote on Twitter: “Numb. The highlight of my cricketing career was to keep Warnie wicket.
“Best seat in the house to watch the teacher at work. Have often felt a tad selfish, that Heals and I pretty much exclusively are the only ones who had that thrill and pleasure at Test level. Rip Warnie.”
Confirmation of Warne’s death came just hours after he posted a tweet on Twitter offering his condolences to the family of Rod Marsh, the former Australia wicketkeeper who died on Friday morning.
Australia opener David Warner said in a post on his social channels: “Two legends of our game have left us too soon. I’m lost for words, and this is extremely sad.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to the Marsh and Warne family. I just can’t believe it. #rip, you will both be missed.”
Shane Watson, the former Australia all-rounder, also paid tribute to his “hero, mentor and great friend” Warne.
Watson tweeted: “I am numb!!! My hero, my mentor, my great friend, Shane Warne is no longer with us. Warnie, the impact you had on this great game and everyone around it is immeasurable. Thank you for being so bloody good to me. I am going to miss you so much. Rest In Peace SK.”
Former Australia batsman Mark Waugh said his old team-mate Warne was the “ultimate entertainer” both on and off the cricket field, while another former colleague, Jason Gillespie, was “devastated” by the news.
Waugh, who played 128 Tests and 244 ODIs for Australia between 1991 and 2002, wrote on Twitter: “This just unfathomable to lose another great of our cricket family. Warnie was the ultimate entertainer on and off the field, never a dull moment who lived life to the fullest. Deepest condolences to his loved ones of him. matte RIP.”
Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley added in a statement: “Shane was one of the most talented and charismatic cricketers we have ever witnessed. He loved cricket, had an extraordinarily astute understanding of the game and his influence and legacy will last for as long as it is played.
“We are in a state of complete shock at his sudden passing and our thoughts are with his family, his many friends and the legion of fans from all over the world who loved and admired Warnie for his unbelievable bowling skills, his humour, warmth and engaging personality.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.