Sachin Tendulkar has paid rich tribute to the late Shane Warne, calling him a ‘fierce competitor’, against whom he always had to prepare differently as the Australian spin legend was good in playing mind games and gave nothing away with his body language. One of the all-time greats of the game, Warne died at the age of 52 due to a suspected heart attack in Thailand on March 4.
“My first proper series against Shane Warne was in 1998 in India and everyone tagged that series as Tendulkar versus Shane Warne clash. And to remind people that it’s not Tendulkar versus Shane but it is India vs Australia. But such was the following,” Tendulkar said.
“That kind of following is going to put you under pressure. When you are playing a world class bowler like him, you just can’t turn up and hope that things are going to be okay. So I had to prepare properly, not just out being there at the nets but when you’re sitting in the room, you have to be a step ahead of him, what he would be thinking because he was extremely good in putting pressure and playing mind games and trying to plan your dismissal.”
Tendulkar had many fierce battles with Warne and the 1998 series in India will remain a part of cricketing folklore. “It didn’t matter, you looked at his body language. One didn’t know whether Warne had picked up four wickets, five wickets or he was bowling wicketless. Every delivery that he bowled, he was a fierce competitor.
“So even if you’re facing the second last over of the day, one had to keep their eyes open, because he was always up to something and trying to figure out how could he dismissed.”
Tendulkar said ‘there were number of good spinners, but Shane was different’. “One of those very few bowlers against whom you couldn’t hit the ball on the rise. He was someone if you did not get to the pitch of the ball, there was no way one was expected to go and drive on the rise,” he said.
“That was his class the way he got the ball to drift and that can only happen if you have strong shoulders and you’re giving it a rip, the ball drifts down the leg and then spinning away from you. I had to also practice because till then nobody had bowled round the wicket in the rough, trying to get you out. It was usually bowled to keep things under control. If the batter was scoring runs, to kind of slow him down.
“But Shane was actually looking to get the batter out, so one had to prepare the defensive and attacking options.”
West Indies batting great Brain Lara also hailed Warne as the ‘most potent player’ for Australia, who sealed his place ‘in the upper echelons of world cricket’ with his performances in the Ashes series, which included the ball of the century that he bowled to England’s Mike Gatting in 1993.
“I grew up in a country where spin bowling dominated. The lower part of the Caribbean, Trinidad, Guyana, we played spin very well. And Warne posed a lot of trouble for a lot of other players. I found myself winning a lot of those battles, but he never gave up,” he said.
“He always produced that miracle delivery the one that you didn’t know was coming. So I always had my eyes open for Warne throughout my career. He was just a tremendous bowler, bowling in an attack which had awesome fast bowlers.”
Champion. Genius. Legend. Forever – Shane Warne.
— Star Sports (@StarSportsIndia) March 29, 2022
Condoling his death, Lara said: “He was huge, such a legend, such a king, someone who I felt was, you know, gigantic when it comes in the world of sport, and it’s unfortunate what has happened, it’s very sad. He has a very young families, his parents still alive. It’s a weird feeling that he’s gone…”
Remembering his last meeting with Warne in 2021, Tendulkar said: “After the last IPL, I went to spend some time in London where we got in touch. There was never a dull moment. He was full of entertainment, full of jokes and you know those battles those mini competitions.
“I realised that it was not just about spin, the swing also came naturally to him. He was a good golfer. I hate saying he was a good golfer because it’s hard to accept what has happened and for us he will continue to live in our hearts…He had this tremendous attitude towards life. Always positive and always welcoming. It’s really hard to accept that he is no more among us…”
(with PTI inputs)