Forgive this post for being wildly off-topic, but I hope you’ll appreciate why I am doing this post today.
I really don’t have many sporting heroes. Sport is not something that I am “into” but the sports I am into are limiting and kind of niche. (Darts, snooker, strongman, curling.)
As a girl growing up in Australia, it’s hard to avoid tying your sail to the mast of SOME sport or other. Your usual ball sports never really won me over; soccer, either of the rugby codes (league is bigger than union in my part of Sydney and NSW). The only code I would watch with some degree of enthusiasm and likeness was AFL (Australian Rules football). Even then, there was no Sydney team when I was young. It wasn’t until the South Melbourne Football Club relocated to Sydney in 1982 and became the Sydney Swans did we actually have an AFL team. To be a Sydneysider and exude an enthusiasm for a sport that was native to Victoria (AFL was originally VFL – Victorian Football League) meant immediate ridicule and scorn.
The uniting point for me when it came to sport was cricket. I don’t think I came across a single person until I moved away from Australia that said to me “Oh, cricket. Isn’t that just baseball for sloths?” or similar kind of disparaging remarks.
Cricket is the epitome of what summer is in Oz for me. Long hot days in glaring sunlight. And with cricket being a summer sport it seemed obvious to me that although it can be exhausting in its way, that it should be genteel. And it certainly doesn’t have a “class” kind of stigma to it back home as it seemed like it could and did here in the UK (MCC and all that…). It was an “every man” sport and anyone could have a go, and you could play it literally anywhere, as long as you had a ball and a plank of wood or a thick old stick.
My brothers were always having games in the back yard with their mates and other guys from the street, or their mates’ mates. And I, as their annoying little sister, would want in on the games and they’d get pissed off with me and put the hose pipe on me to get me to piss off. Lol. In fairness, they’d let me play now and then but they’d usually let me play when they were using a real cricket ball rather than a tennis ball because they knew I was too scared of being hit by it so I wouldn’t want to play – the canny bastards! Lol
Anyway….this is a long preamble to say that…. Cricket was a big part of my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood in Oz. The first cricket match I ever went to was in Perth. My sister and I went on a summer holiday to stay with our uncle that lived in Perth (he worked as a chef for the RAAF) and he took us to a test match between Australia and the West Indies. Before getting to Warne’s sad passing, yesterday also saw the passing of another Australian cricketing great – Rodney Marsh. And, well, Marshy was wicketkeeper at that first match I ever saw in Perth and I can remember being awed by watching him and his interplay with that incredible fast bowling line-up the Aussie team had at time of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and Len Pascoe.
By the mid 80s, as a sport, cricket really was my thing. And the biggest of all heroes was a young Steve Waugh. In the late 80s the Australian team were struggling. The “greats” were leaving. No more Lillee, Thommo, no more Marshy, Chappell brothers, etc, etc. It took until the early 90s to recover from their departures.
Cue the arrival of Shane Warne. I can remember it as if it was yesterday that first ball he bowled to Mike Gatting at Old Trafford and just the astonishment on Gatting’s face as he looked behind him to see the bails that should be atop the stumps strewn on the turf below. It signalled a new age of Australian cricket. Warne was a sensation. And remained such through his international test and one-day career.
A champion of champions.
The biggest shock about the news of his passing yesterday is his age. He’s barely a year older than me! I can’t even begin to describe the shock of the news. I’ve spent the past near 24 hours in a dumbfounded stupor. I keep expecting some word to come in that it was all fake news and he’s actually fine and we’ve all been had.
(SM fans will know what happened the other week with Mel Gaynor and how that felt!)
But alas, that isn’t going to happen. Cricket and the sporting world in general has lost someone who really does define the word “great” and “legend”. To me, this photo below summed Shane Warne up magnificently. A metaphor for the long shadow his legacy will cast on the cricketing world.
Fly straight, Warney, ya bloody legend!