Shane Warne today brings down the curtain on a cricket career that’s had its share of records, as well as controversy.
Warne, the second-highest wicket-taker in Test history, plays his final match today for the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League. The 41-year-old Australian has spent four seasons playing Twenty20, the newest and shortest form of the game, after retiring from international and first-class cricket.
“It was a hard decision to make as I have really enjoyed playing the IPL,” Warne said this month on his website. “It’s time to move on and concentrate on my post-playing life and business career.”
Warne took a then-record 708 Test wickets for Australia from 1992-2007. The mark was broken the year he retired by Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan, who has 800 Test wickets.
Leg-spinner Warne was named one of the five “Cricketers of the 20th Century” by the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. His first delivery against England in 1993, which dismissed Mike Gatting, was described as the “ball of the century.”
“Warne’s certainly been the greatest spinner to have played the game in the modern era,” Ajay Jadeja, a former Indian cricketer, said by telephone from New Delhi. “I doubt you will ever see a spinner with the quality of skills that he had.”
Controversy has also followed Warne. He failed a drug test before the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, claiming he swallowed a fluid-reducing tablet without realizing it contained a prohibited substance.
He was also stripped of the Australian vice-captaincy in 2000 after admitting to making lewd telephone calls, was fined six years earlier for taking money from an Indian bookmaker and lost a contract with Nine Network in Australia following U.K. newspaper reports of a series of extra-marital affairs that led to the breakup of his marriage.
Two days ago he was fined $50,000 by the Board of Control for Cricket in India for a dispute with an administrator after an IPL game last week. His personal life has also come under scrutiny this season as he has frequently been photographed with English actress Elizabeth Hurley.
“My life, like everyone’s, has been full of highs and lows,” Warne said on his website. “I have been fortunate to experience many more highs than lows and for that I am very lucky.”
Warne made his Test debut against India in 1992 and played in the Ashes against England for the first time the following year, starting out with the Gatting ball, a delivery that pitched outside leg stump and spun to hit off stump.
“No matter how much time passes, I am still asked about it regularly and I expect I always will be,” Gatting wrote in the Times of London in 2006. “I suppose I can say ‘I was there’ at the moment he first indicated his potential to the wider world.”
The ball -- which Warne says “literally changed my life” -- and his performance helped Australia to a 4-1 series win, and when the teams met again in 1994 he took a hat-trick to help retain cricket’s oldest trophy. His only Ashes series defeat was in England in 2005, and his retirement from international play two years later came after Australia regained the trophy with a 5-0 whitewash.
Warne took 293 wickets in 194 one-day matches and was named man-of-the-match in Australia’s 1999 World Cup final win. His ability to confuse batsmen with any of his six spinning deliveries helped Australia to the top of the Test and one-day forms of the game.
Warne continued to play and was captain of English county team Hampshire until he quit in 2008. He finished his career with 1,319 first-class wickets.
Warne joined Rajasthan when the lucrative IPL began in 2008, on an initial annual contract of $450,000, helping the Royals to the league title in his first season. He’s taken 12 wickets in 12 matches this season, heading into today’s game at Mumbai. Rajasthan hasn’t made the playoffs.
“Sometimes you feel like your life is constantly see-sawing and it is difficult to keep everything in perspective,” Warne said on his website. “Right now I am in the best place I have ever been.”