Australia in particular and cricketing world at large lost two icons on two consecutive days. First was Rodney Marsh, the iconic Australian wicket keeper, who formed the deadliest combination with fast bowler Dennis Lillee. Marsh had 95 victims behind the stumps while keeping wickets for Lillee’s bowling. He had a career record of 355 victims while keeping the wickets that exactly matched with Lillee’s count of 355 wickets in test matches! Some coincidence this considering the two contemporaries.
The next day, the master of leg spin bowling, whose wizardry and craft took leg spin bowling to new heights, Shane Warne died suddenly at his beach house in Thailand, hours after writing obituary of his senior colleague Rod Marsh. At 52, Shane had no age to die, especially reckoning the fact that till few years back, he was actively playing in IPL and had taken his IPL team, Rajasthan Royals to new heights.
I come from an era when probably there was one cricketing series in one year, if not less. Players would take years to create landmarks such as 200 wickets, 5000 runs or 100 stumping/catches behind the wicket. For years, Bedi’s 266 wickets was a record for India, till first Kapil and then Anil Kumble broke it. Kapil, in fact, bettered Sir Richard Hadlee’s record! What I mean to say here is that for a bowler, 400 test wickets was big landmark, but the troika of spinners from three countries – Kumble, Warne and Muralitharan- created unbelievable record by taking 619, 708 and 800 wickets respectively.
And what makes Warne stand out is that he came from a country that was mainly known for its fast bowling, where the bouncy wickets supported pacers and where the team did not have a reserved slot for a spinner. In contrast, Murali and Kumble came for the subcontinent that had produced so many iconic spinners and where pitches helped slow bowling!
And Warne had a boyish charm about him! From dating Elizabeth Hurley to falling head over heels in love with his eventual wife, who left him after his adultery was exposed, he always hogged the limelight. But that couldn’t take the sheen off his mesmerising bowling that comprised several unique events like the magic first ball that spun from outside the leg stump to uproot Gatting’s middle stump or the bowl that spun more than 6 feet, if I remember correctly.
Wish Shane could have lived a few more years and imparted his knowledge of leg spin bowling to more youngsters so that the cricketing world could see the magic on the field by more Warnes!
Rest in peace both the greats – Rod and Shane!