The highs and lows of Shane Warne’s cricketing career
From a disappointing debut to captaining the Rajasthan Royals to an IPL title and everything in between
1990 – A False Start
Warne is released from the Australian Cricket Academy in Adelaide for disciplinary reasons.
He made his debut against India in the fourth Test in Sydney. It’s not a memorable outing as he finishes with numbers of 1 for 150 in India’s only rounds. Ravi Shastri is his victim.
The first Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo is being prepared delicately. Allan Border throws the ball to Warne as Australia battle to defend 181 on night five: In 5.1 overs, Warne recovers 3 for 11 to give Australia a 16 run win and show them they belong here.
Playing his first ball in an Ashes Test, Warne confuses Mike Gatting with a delivery that will forever be identified as the ball of the century. It’s the perfect leg jump, drifting and dipping so much that it lands on the outside of the leg stump and rotates all the way through Gatting to touch the top of the stump. Warne finishes the series with 34 at 25.79 on six tests – a legend is born.
He is the highest wicket taker in two of the three series he has played in and the second highest in the third, the Ashes. He won a career-best 8-71 in Brisbane in the inaugural Test of the Ashes before picking up a hat-trick in Melbourne.
1995 – In Trouble
Mark Waugh and Warne are fined by the Australia Cricket Board, now Cricket Australia, after they admitted providing match information to an Indian bookmaker. The ACB covers the scandal, but the media exposes it three years later.
It’s the semi-final of the 1996 World Cup, the West Indies are 178 against 4, only 30 points from a victory when the magician Warne enters. He got rid of Ottis Gibson, Jimmy Adams and Ian Bishop in quick succession to finish with 4 in 36 and offer Australia an improbable victory.
1996 – Under the Knife
Warne needs surgery on his spinning finger, causing him to miss a short tour of India.
March 1999 – Under repair
A first bump. Recovery from the shoulder injury was slow and despite being vice-captain to Steve Waugh on a tour of the West Indies, he was dropped for the fourth and final Test in an epic series.
Warne started the 1999 World Cup badly but as the tournament entered its commercial end, he changed gears. In the legendary semi-final against South Africa in Edgbaston, he picked up 4 for 29 to help Australia level the game and advance to the final. In the final, his 4 for 33 helped put Pakistan together for 132 and earn Australia their second World Cup title. He is player of the match in both games, and his 20 wickets in the tournament are the most.
April 2000 – In Excellent Company
Less than a decade after his debut, Warne was selected as one of five Cricketers of the Century by Wisden. With 27 votes, he is fourth on the list and the only active in the top five – an indication of the impact he has had in such a short time. He’s also part of a stellar company, alongside Don Bradman, Garry Sobers, Jack Hobbs and Viv Richards. The previous month, he had become Australia’s biggest wicket-taker in Test cricket by overtaking Dennis Lillee’s tally of 355 wickets.
Catastrophe, just as Australia prepares to launch its campaign to defend the World Cup title: Warne tests positive for diuretics, a banned drug he says he uses to lose weight. He is suspended by the Australian board for one year. The ban effectively ends his ODI career.
Warne did not keep a low profile and on his return to Test cricket he won a duel with Muthiah Muralidaran in Sri Lanka. In a three-game series, he collected 26 wickets to help Australia shut out the hosts despite falling behind every game. During the series, he also becomes the first spinner to take 500 wickets in Test cricket. Later that year, in a historic serial victory in India, he became the first wicket-taker in Test cricket, breaking the tie with Muralidaran, when he dismissed Irfan Pathan for his 533rd wicket. In the process, he helps Australia conquer the final frontier, with a series victory in India.
His greatest individual performance, in one of the greatest series of all time: the 2005 Ashes. In five Tests, he won 40 wickets, including bowling Andrew Strauss in Edgbaston with a ball often nicknamed the ball of the 21st century . In the third Test, he becomes the first bowler to 600 Test wickets. He even contributes with bat, making 249 carries at an average of 27.66; most of his runs come in tough situations. Still, Australia lost the Ashes 2-1. In all, picks up 96 Test wickets in 2005, the most by any bowler in a calendar year.
Warne was instrumental in Australia’s brutal revenge, shutting out England 5-0 for only the second time in Ashes history. Warne collects 23 wickets, including his 700th Test victim – Strauss again played at the MCG. He finished with 708 Test wickets, a record at the time.
Famously, Warne is considered the best captain Australia has ever had (despite leading them in 11 ODIs). But after his retirement, he got a chance with Rajasthan Royals, a Moneyball-inspired IPL franchise and of course, he took them to the title in the very first season. He is a player, captain and manager and still a genius: he is the second best wicket taker of the season with 19 scalps in 15 matches.
Warne captains “Warne’s Warriors” against “Sachin’s Blasters” in a three-game All-Star T20 series in the United States. This series of exhibitions – involving retired players, mostly game greats – is the brainchild of Warne and Sachin Tendulkar. The aim is to play matches around the world over a period of three and a half years, but no further series are organised.
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo