STUART BROAD: To call Shane Warne a legend doesn’t do him justice – he was THE hero of our game

Shane Warne was cricket’s version of Michael Jordan. Someone universally known beyond the boundaries of their sport. 

His name would have been familiar in countries that do not play cricket and to people who had never seen it. And the outpouring of emotion of the last 48 hours undoubtedly defines what a huge loss this has been.

When Rodney Marsh, another Australian great, passed away at 74 last week, I immediately thought: ‘That’s no age.’ So, the passing of Warne at just 52 so soon afterwards has hit everybody hard. 

Shane Warne wasn’t just a cricket legend, he was the hero of our game and an inspiration

Whoever met Shane was immediately hit by several things: his amazing positive energy; his zest for life; his love for cricket and his kindness and warmth. Another quality I believed he possessed, through the times I spent with him on the golf course, in the commentary box or around cricket grounds, was invincibility. It still doesn’t feel real. 

His generosity was incredible. When, after the first Ashes Test in 2019, I held a charity golf day at The Belfry for motor neurone disease, he came to support it by playing and taking part in the Q&A at the dinner that followed. 

He drove up in the morning from London, the guys in his team adored his company on the course, and he had time for everybody involved. I’d booked him a room at the hotel but towards the end of the evening he told me he was actually driving home. He was such a sociable guy, he just had time for people. 

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I spent some time with him in Australia this winter. He was on great form, full of life and as always very positive towards us England cricketers. 

That might not always come across through his punditry but he was always very supportive of the England team and expressed his appreciation to us for going over to play the Ashes under Covid restrictions. 

He had a style and swagger my generation of wannabe top-level cricketers hadn't seen before

He had a style and swagger my generation of wannabe top-level cricketers hadn’t seen before

In fact, the last great memory I have of him is treating me, Jimmy Anderson, Zak Crawley, Jack Leach, Chris Woakes, Jos Buttler, Dawid Malan and Ollie Pope — the players who did not have families in tow — to a day of golf at Cathedral Lodge, one of the best courses in Australia. 

Everyone left remarking on what a gentleman he was. He made us feel so welcome and just wanted us to enjoy ourselves and he was like that all the time. Whether you knew him to share a drink with or you’d simply crossed paths on the field before a match he was commentating on, he had a warmth that drew you in. 

I always made a point of chatting to him when he was looking at pitches before a match and when I wasn’t picked for the MCG Boxing Day Test, I was out there discussing with others what was quite a green surface and how it looked like a bowl-first kind of day. 

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Warnie took his view as he walked towards it, shouting as loud as anything to the groundsman Matthew Page: ‘A quick game is a good game, Matt!’ He’d made his mind up that the grass left on was going to encourage the ball to seam everywhere and he was right. 

He always called things as he saw them. I enjoyed how straight and direct he could be with his points on cricket. First and foremost, he will be remembered as an unbelievable cricketer but it was that attitude that made him a phenomenal pundit as well. Some people seem frightened to give opinions but he was never short of them, because he possessed such an amazing cricket brain. 

Warne's ability to call things as he saw them made him an unbelievable cricketer and phenomenal pundit too

Warne’s ability to call things as he saw them made him an unbelievable cricketer and phenomenal pundit too

He was also an inspiration to my generation of wannabe top-level cricketers, thanks to a style that we had not seen previously. He had an incredible mentality for winning and doing so with a swagger. 

Immensely skilful and a real student of his craft of leg-spin, he also put in the hard yards, was always working for his team, never backed away from hard graft and was a true competitor. 

He was also more than happy to make the opposition feel uncomfortable on the field. He was the standout player of arguably the best Test team there has ever been. 

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After I took a five-fer in the Sydney Test earlier this year, he sent me a message, saying: ‘Well done, terrific stuff.’ I thanked him, saying it wasn’t one of my best but nevertheless felt good. ‘You know the drill, there are plenty of days when you bowl like a jet and get nothing in the wickets column,’ he replied. 

He was someone you could learn from. Every Test cricketer in the world, no matter the colour of the cap they wore, would be united by the desire to play alongside him because his appeal transcended borders and rivalries. It would be hard to find a cricket fan in the UK who doesn’t respect Shane Warne for what his excellence did for Ashes series or for the sport in general. 

Legend doesn’t do him justice. He was the hero of our game. 

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