There must be some way to process the inexplicably gut-wrenching departure of Shane Warne, and so first you try place yourself as a fielder. As it’s Warne, there is variety, always multiple options. Should you be at forward short leg? Under the helmet, heart racing, as he appears in your peripheral vision, a whirlwind of mischievous intention and fiendish wizardly.
The crowd is at the edge of its seats, something is definitely going to happen, and bat-pad had better be ready. Warne approached the crease like a sixth sense. The arm wheeling over at the rate of knots, the ball leaving the hand, invention and discovery packed together in its ripping flight path.
The langourous drift, the deathly dip, the spiteful, malevolent, corkscrew turn, seeking and finding. Either the edge of a blade that slits the batsman’s throat or tipping bails, falling over themselves, chortling like noisy schoolboys.
Or maybe you should not be so close because you will virtually find yourself in the intoxicating, gravity of his craft, which from older age was given “Warnie’s” own modern jazz riff.
Maybe it is better to be at a distance, maybe at short fine or deep mid-wicket, waiting for the batsman’s panic-striken hoick. Standing back helps you examine this astonishing, compellingly larger-than-life cricketer through comprehensible scale against the vast canvas of the game.
Even then, you realise, against that landscape, with 150 years behind us, Shane Warne cannot be packed into modest proportion, because he’s one of those at the head of the entire pack. On the Knights Exemplar side of the Round Table, if you like, exchanging notes with Garry Sobers or challenging the Don to an over in the nets anywhere.
Naturally, he would feature in any cricketing pantheon but it’s more important to realise that if cricket featured in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Shane Warne would be an essential part of its entry. That’s what his cricket and his personality were in the game – galactic.
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