Wily Shane Warne waves goodbye to cricket
Mumbai: Revered by teammates, feared by rivals and scoffed at by critics -- Australian spin legend Shane Warne ended a phenomenal cricket career that had as many unsavoury controversies as magical bowling spells.
And as Warne walked onto the field for one last time for the IPL game against Mumbai Indians, his Rajasthan Royals teammates gave him a `guard of honour` as they stood in two
lines to salute the maestro.
It was an emotional moment as the packed crowd at the Wankhede stadium also gave him a standing ovation when he led his team onto the field.
Not a stranger to rows, Warne had to quite literally grin and bear it through another one just on the eve of his final IPL match as well.
The Rajasthan Royals captain was handed a USD 50,000 fine for getting into a verbal spat with Rajasthan Cricket Association secretary Sanjay Dixit.
With 708 Test and 293 ODI wickets, the 41-year-old ruled international cricket from 1992 to 2007 before announcing his retirement.
But that was not to be his curtain call as Warne decided to weave some more magic albeit in the glamorous Indian Premier League.
And it turned out to be a cricketing fairytale as the charming leg-spinner led a bunch of greenhorns to the trophy leaving everyone astonished by the sheer passion with which he led the rag-tag side.
Considered the best captain that Australia never had, Warne has led a life on the edge. He has more often than not been at the wrong end but has still managed to endear himself
to fans, who couldn`t care less for the innumerable controversies he landed himself into.
From never-ending flings that ended his marriage to being fined for passing information to bookies to being banned for taking a prohibited diuretic just on the eve of the World Cup, Warne has seen it all and endured it all with a smile on his face.
The burly bowler, voted one of Wisden`s five `Cricketers of the Century` along with Donald Bradman, Garry Sobers, Jack Hobbs and Viv Richards in 2000, was quite often mocked for his rockstar like lifestyle, the most recent example of which is his affair with British actress Elizabeth Hurley.
But Warne almost always responded with on-field magic to silence his critics and he did it in style. Much before anyone else, Warne touched the 700-Test wickets mark in 2006.
And unlike his competitor Muttiah Muralitharan, who eventually surpassed him, Warne`s action was never called into question.
His bowling was seen as magic by the purists and his duels with Indian batting icon Sachin Tendulkar became a part of cricketing folklore.
Warne and Tendulkar, in fact, shared a rivalry that was intense on-field but non-existent off it and it is only fitting that the Australian played his final game against a side led by the Indian maestro.
"It is appropriate that my last game is against Sachin. Sachin is the greatest player I have played against," Warne has stated.
Unconventional with his ways, Warne announced his second retirement on social networking site twitter instead of delivering the kind of emotional speech he had read while saying goodbye to Test cricket in 2007.
IPL was the only cricket event he was playing after leaving the big stage but he promises to remain involved in some way with the team which gave him a new identity post the
Such is his aura that even the franchise doesn`t want to let go of him as at some level, he too has given identity to a side which was nothing to start with.