Shane Warne dies: Brilliant genius who changed cricket forever

Shane Warne was the best. As a cricket fan growing up in England I had barely heard of leg spin, never mind seen it before the little tubby kid with the bleached blond hair and the stud in his ear changed our perception of the game forever.

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To lose Warne - not just a great player, but a coach and a commentator too - will probably be like the day when we say goodbye to Roger Federer or Lionel Messi. You hope it will be a long way off, so for Warne to head back to the pavilion at the age of 52 is tragically early.

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Warne could do things with a ball you did not know were possible.

Former Australia cricketer Shane Warne has died at the age of 52, his management company MPC Entertainment has announced in a statement (Picture: David Jones/PA Wire)

I had heard little bits about him before Australia’s 1993 Ashes tour but in those days, you had to wait for overseas players to come to your country before you could watch them, even on the television.

I was lucky enough to see him in the flesh at Headingley that summer, but we had already been wowed by him by that point.

It was the first Test of the summer, at Old Trafford, where he announced himself with the ball Mike Gatting is still trying to work out how it spun past his considerable frame. There would be others - Andrew Strauss at Edgbaston 12 years later - but that one delivery was enough to change everything, not just for him, but for us.

Suddenly young kids on Scarborough fields would try twisting their wrists to spin the ball out of the back of their hand in the vain hope they could ever produce something like Warne could. I never did.

Shane Warne. Former Australia cricketer Shane Warne has died at the age of 52, his management company MPC Entertainment has announced in a statement. (Picture: David Giles/PA Wire)

The few wrist spinners of years gone by had generally been expensive luxuries - wicket-takers but not at all economical. Warne married the pair.

He has also had a brilliant gift for making batsmen think he was even better than he was, inventing so many names for so many deliveries, many of which were more or less the same.

He always seemed generous in passing on his knowledge to others and would always the champion the cause of talented young leg-spinners, like Bradford’s Adil Rashid.

He was not perfect in the way he lived his life, and that only added to his charm.

David Gower, Andrew Strauss and Shane Warne wearing red for the Ruth Strauss Foundation. (Picture: John Walton/PA Wire)

But it was not just talentless young lads like me Warne inspired. Without Shane Warne, there may never have been Rashid, one of only four Yorkshiremen to win cricket’s World Cup.

Without Shane Warne, leg spin might even have died out. He changed cricket forever.