There are certain things in life which will stick on with you for a lifetime. Be it something personal or something not related to you at all but there are some mesmerizing things which cannot be wiped out from the gray matter. The greatest thing in life is to live for something you cherished throughout. Growing up in a cricket crazy nation, learning ball by ball facts of each and every game being played, watching repeat telecasts of some of the greatest matches, glossing over the statistics of even the obscure of players, remembering the titans of the game are some of the things that will remain with me, as I still continue with the growing up process. I was never in an era to witness the Don play out thousands of deliveries in gay abandon. I have never witnessed the charm of Barry Richards or the angry glare of Michael Holding or Joel Garner. They may be some of the best players missed out but luckily I had the opportunity to see the greatest legspinner of all times, Shane Warne, bamboozle the greatest of batsmen with some outstanding out of the box deliveries. Literally, it means out of the box balls (no pun intended!). Warney, as he is popularly known, announced his retirement from all forms of cricket with the end of the Ashes series at Sydney. Australia demoralised, destroyed any confidence, killed any kind of fight in the English players in what could be hailed as yet another one sided Ashes contest of the century. Come on! Whatever happened last year happens once in a hundred years with this current Australian side. It was all the more expected to see Australia strike top notch from with a flagging English side. People were actually saying that this Australian side is getting old. Why not? Warney is hitting 37, but seriously the English would have been happy with Warne retiring early!!
When you talk about a bowler, it is common to say "Wow, that was a great spell!", "That delivery to get rid of so and so was brilliant", "He changed the match with that wicket". But with Warne, it is quite different. The adjectives would have to flow out as he has repeatedly produced some amazing spells, got brilliant batsmen out with brilliant deliveries, and has changed the match many a time by taking crucial wickets at crucial junctures. How many times have we seen Warne spoiling the party of the opposition with his flippers, googlies, straight ones and those legspinners which pitch way outside that strip in the middle, beats the batsmen by another twenty inches, and from nowhere in the world clips that off stump with an angle that no mortal can fathom. Ooof!! Sensational! Absolutely sensational! No words to describe the deliveries that get the batsmen out from improbable angles and at seemingly impossible situations. We have seen it all from the great man! Ask Mike Gatting, Basit Ali, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Strauss and a host of Warne bunnies who will scream in glee on hearing the great man flee!
He might have had a lot of off-field controversies and some on-field controversies. But one should remember that what he has contributed to the art of leg spin is immense and huge. The game has received a huge facelift due to players like him. It was always a sight to see him comeback and deliver the goods to his captain. He was one person when as long as he was there on the field, the match was totally imbalanced. Obviously, in favour of Australia! He could come in and in a space of a few deliveries create panic in the opposition. Before anybody could realise, Australia would walk away with the honours.
Talking about Warne, how can one leave out the accuracy machine - Glenn McGrath. The best fast bowler of the modern era, and one who could bowl in that corridor of uncertainity a 100 per cent. He was a captain's delight as he would get top order wickets in a heap. The best part about McGrath was that he knew how to target some of the best batsmen in the world and take their wickets also regularly. He had made bunnies out of some of the English players in various Ashes over the years. Ask Atherton, and he can certainly not hide. Though Lara has played some great innings against Australia, he knows what it is to face McGrath. Tendulkar nowadays maybe getting out to every Tom, Dick and Harry, but at one point of time, at his prime had encountered some brilliant duels with McGrath. He has single handedly won many many matches for Australia within the first hour in Test cricket. That is something sensational! It is definitely a shock to see these two great men - McGrath and Warne hanging up their boots at Sydney. The world will miss these two brilliant Australians who have contributed so much to the cricketing fraternity.
One should actually appreciate the timing of these two great players. I remember Kapil Dev who was a dying horse at the fag end of his playing years. He just wanted to continue simply because he wanted to break Sir. Richard Hadlee's record. He frustrated every Indian supporter by playing even when he was well past his playing days. I remember that period when he took almost two years to go from 400 wickets to 434 wickets. Certainly, one of the worst period of Indian cricket. Even Sachin Tendulkar should take a clue from these two players and retire before he makes a complete mess out of himself. Sunil Gavaskar, who is obsessed with Indian records, might force Tendulkar to stick to cricket and break all the records. At the end of the day, nobody cares as to what record he holds.
But now, let us just enjoy the contribution of Warne and McGrath to World cricket and surely these men receive a fitting farewell.