Shane Warne thrilled and inspired in equal measure throughout his career but for all his wizardry with a cricket ball and charisma, like others touched by sporting genius he brought a fair amount of baggage to his chosen profession.
Leg spinner Warne, who took 708 wickets in 145 tests during a glittering career and who almost single-handedly made the game ‘cool’ for a new generation of fans, was pure box office.
Admired by his team mates and adored by fans — the peroxide blond Warne’s ‘rock star’ lifestyle often landed him in hot water with cricket’s notoriously stuffy top brass.
During his pomp Warne’s ability to rip a wickedly spinning cricket ball into a batsman’s stumps made him a regular on the back pages of newspapers, but a string of lurid controversies also kept the gossip columnists busy.
In 2000 Warne was stripped of the Australian vice-captaincy after sending erotic text messages to a British nurse while married to his wife Simone Callahan.
After more scandals and a marital split he began dating British actress and model Elizabeth Hurley, the couple getting engaged in 2011 before breaking it off.
In 1998 Warne, and team mate Mark Waugh, admitted that they had accepted money from an Indian bookmaker during a tour of Sri Lanka in 1994, both players were hit with fines.
Five years later Warne was sent home in disgrace on the eve of the 2003 World Cup after testing positive for a banned substance — a diuretic Warne said his mother had given him to improve his appearance.
He was banned for a year and used the time away from the pitch to forge a TV punditry career that made him one of the most recognisable voices in the commentary box.
Warne, who took cricket by storm when he bowled the so-called “Ball of the Century” on his Ashes debut in 1993, was an integral part of Australia’s greatest test team.
But there were ups and downs and he had a chequered relationship with his former captain Steve Waugh who dropped him during a tour of West Indies in 1999.
In 2016 Warne described Waugh as the “most selfish cricketer” he had ever played with.
Even after retirement from the game in 2013, Warne remained a magnet for news. On the reality show I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here in 2016 he questioned the theory of evolution and claimed that humans evolved from aliens.
Warne’s penchant for ruffling feathers with his soap opera lifestyle probably prevented him from ever captaining the Australia test team, but the affection with which he was regarded in Australia and around the globe was enormous.
Former England captain Andrew Strauss, who faced Warne during the epic 2005 Ashes series and later worked with him as a pundit for Sky Sports, said Warne had a “passion for the game”.
“He would love nothing more than to go out at night and talk cricket,” Strauss told Sky Sports on Friday. “He was incredible company and you would never have a better night out than with Shane. He had a great generosity of spirit.”
Current Australia captain Pat Cummins described Warne as a “once in a century” cricketer.
“We loved Warney’s showmanship, his charisma, his tactics and above all else his incredible skills,” he told Sky Sports.
“The game was never the same after he emerged and it will never be the same after his passing.”