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Shane Warne

Shane Warne (1969–2022) was an Australian cricket player, as infamous for his off-the-field scandals as he was legendary for his leg-spin attack.

He grew up in Hampton, and attended Hampton High School for years 7–9 before getting a sports scholarship to Mentone Grammar. He originally wanted to become an AFL footballer, but got dropped from the St Kilda reserves side, so pursued cricket instead.

He wasn’t immediately a success. In one of his early innings, at home, he got smashed around the ground by India and ended up with figures of 1/150. However, his very first ball against England, dubbed “The Ball of the Cen­tu­ry”, cemented his place in the side. The ball swung right across the entire width of Gatting, hitting his wicket on the complete opposite side of him from where it hit the ground. Warne became an integral part of Australia’s utterly dominant cricket team of the 1990s and 2000s.

He was involved in scandals. There was that thing where he accepted money from “John the bookmaker”. There was the time he got suspended for a year for taking a banned substance and tried to blame it on his mum. There was the time he got into “an altercation” with a group of teenagers who took a photo of him smoking (at the time he had a sponsorship deal with Nicorette nicotine patches that was conditional on him quitting). He was also a notorious womaniser, and apparently not very good at keeping women’s numbers straight in his phone (in 2007 he apparently convinced his ex-wife to take him back, then blew up his chances by accidentally texting her something lewd meant for another woman… and this was far from his only mobile phone mishap). For a while he was engaged to Liz Hurley, although that ended, too. He had a charity named after himself, the Shane Warne Foun­d­a­tion, that hemorrhaged money every year until it finally wrapped up in 2017. He also had some memorably cringey roles in various advertising campaigns (the Advance Hair Loss one I’m particularly thinking of…) but that’s not really a scandal, I guess.

People have also poked fun at him for some of his dietary habits. For example, there’s the story about when he was on tour in India and “ate nothing but meat pies” (elsewhere, I’ve seen the story that he imported in pallets of canned spaghetti and baked beans). Apparently another time(external link), on tour in England, he didn’t like the look of a highly up-market Japanese restaurant where the whole team was eating so he somehow convinced them to let him order a cheap take-away pizza and eat it with his hands at the same table where the rest of the team was eating the actual restaurant’s food.

He retired from international cricket in 2007, but went on to play in T20 tournaments for a few more years after that. In the IPL, he led the Rajasthan Royals – “a team of nobodies” – to a premiership as captain, in something I’ve seen at least one Indian cricket fan say could’ve been made into a movie. After he gave up T20 cricket, he took up cricket commentating, and earned a lot of criticism for just generally not being very good at it. (He seemed to get bored easily and start just talking shit… or else urging teams to just declare, almost regardless of the circumstances…) He also seemed to have it in for another Australian bowler, Mitchell Starc, for some strange reason.

He died on 4 March 2022 while on holiday in Thailand, of a suspected heart attack. The cause, if one exists, of the heart attack is not really known but considering his “party-hard” lifestyle the reasons can probably be guessed. He also had Covid-19 in August 2021, and was even ventilated for a little while (although he claimed it was “optional”…) and infection with that has been known to increase one’s chance of subsequent cardiac incidents by up to 10x. So that may be another factor.

Honestly, until his death I never realised what a “heart of gold” lay beneath all the scandals and party-boy lifestyle and kind of pig-headed cricket commentary. Here are some of the stories I’ve come across from just ordinary people about what a lovely guy Warne was even when he really didn’t have to be: