Shortcuts / 07 March 2022

Shane Warne and Rod Marsh

It’s been a devastating few days for Australia’s cricket community and fans around the world with the deaths of 2 giants of the game, Shane Warne and Rod Marsh. So The Squiz and Sport Today have come together for this look at these icons’ achievements on the field, and their lives off it.

Let’s start with Shane Warne – what a shock… 
Wasn’t it just… He’s widely considered one of the greatest bowlers in cricket history, and he was a big character off the field. So let’s start with some background. 

Ok. Let’s do it. 
Warne was born on 13 September 1969 in Upper Ferntree Gully, an outer suburb of Melbourne. When he was a youngster, Warne broke both his legs in a playground accident and he had to scoot around by lying on his stomach on a trolley for 6 months. He said that gave him very strong wrists from an early age. Handy for what was to come… 

So he was into cricket from the start?
He played cricket as a boy, but it was AFL footy that was his first love. And he was pretty good at it too, but not good enough to break into the top ranks. That was a pretty brutal lesson for an 18yo just out of school…

What happened? 
Things were looking pretty good for him as a rookie with AFL side St Kilda. He made it to reserves level, which is one step below the top league, but he was cut from the roster in 1988. He was shattered by that, but he said there were 2 ways to go. You could let it ruin your life, or you could get determined about what’s next. And that’s what he did when he committed to becoming the best leg-spin bowler he could be.

Umm what’s leg-spin?
It’s considered the hardest skill in the sport to master. 

Go on…
In cricket, there are fast and spin bowlers, and there are two types of spinners – finger spinners (who use their index finger to spin the ball) and wrist spinners. They kinda roll the ball out from their hand using their wrist to spin the ball. It’s very tricky but if you can get it right, the ball tends to spin more, and you can spin it in different ways by changing your wrist position. And that’s what Warne did. 

That’s the spin bit, what about the leg bit?
For a right-handed batsman, the bowler’s deliver usually spins away from the leg side, and this is where it gets the name.

I’m confused… 
Yep. Here’s a video with the man himself explaining it. 

Let’s get back to Warne… 
So after his footy career didn’t take off, it took him a few years to get on track. In 1990, he was chosen to train at the Australian Cricket Academy under Rod Marsh. He was booted from the Academy after a mooning incident in Darwin and he returned to Melbourne.

Classic Warney… 
Moving right along. In 1991, he had his first-class debut playing for Victoria in the Sheffield Shield. And in 1992, he was selected to play for Australia. That was in a Test against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground after just seven first-class games, so it was a real punt by the selectors. 

How’d he go? 
Look, he wasn’t an instant success… He took one wicket in that Test and was smashed by India’s batsmen. We’re just speculating but it could have had something to do with meeting Simone Callahan as he prepared for that match… That was at a celebrity event in Melbourne where she was a model for Foster’s beer. They went on to get married in 1995. 

So how did he cement his role on the Aussie team? 
He found a mentor in Terry Jenner who was a former leg-spin bowler for Australia, and together they build Warne’s confidence. And then we get to 4 June 1993, the second day of the first Ashes Test at Old Trafford in Manchester.

The ball of the century?
The ball of the century – also dubbed the ball from hell. Warne came in for his first delivery in an Ashes series, and what he unleashed was one of those moments when everything changes. Not only did he dismiss England’s Mike Gatting with a delivery that has been watched and analysed many millions of times, but it also announced Warne’s arrival as a player who had something special.

So it was up and up from there?
He went on the play 145 Test matches for Australia and he remains Australia’s most prolific wicket-taker with 708 wickets. It’s daylight between him and the bloke who’s next on the ladder, and that’s Glenn McGrath with 563. 

What else did he do in cricket?
He also represented Australia in 194 one-day internationals taking 293 wickets. And he captained/coached Rajasthan Royals to win the inaugural Indian Premier League. Warne was named as one of Wisden’s ‘Five Cricketers of the 20th Century’. Wisden’s is the bible of cricket. 

What was the secret to his success? 
Well, let’s start with what he wasn’t. He wasn’t a fit guy. His diet was atrocious – if you want a sense of what he liked, he said to look at the kids’ menu… He didn’t mind a drink and he loved a smoke. And his teammates ribbed him about his lack of commitment to training.

So it was down to raw talent?
There’s a bit of mythology in all that. Warne did work hard at his bowling – in his way. He was relentless in his pursuit of refining his art and inventing new deliveries that would bamboozle the world’s best batsmen. We’re talking about the wrong’un, the flipper, the zooter and so many variations on those – although a lot were just the same ball with different names to try and confuse batters. 

And he kept that up throughout his career?
No, his training tapered off as he got older. By the end, he’d just bowl a few overs in the nets to get ready. But he made it look so easy, which was frustrating for every other spin in the world.

What else was in his bag of tricks? 
He was a genius at the mind games. Warne had the capacity to read a batter’s mind and he could get under his skin, which saw them panic and throw their wicket away. South Africa’s Darryl Cullinan is the most famous victim – he couldn’t handle Warnie. He went to see a therapist about dealing with Warne. As he walked out to bat the next time he played Australia, Warne asked him “What colour was the couch?”

That’s brutal… 
Couple that with his fiercely competitive spirit, and he was a force to be reckoned with. 

But it wasn’t all good, right? 
No way. There were also some notable lows. In 1995, the Australian Cricket Board fined Warne and teammate Mark Waugh for accepting money from a bookmaker in exchange for giving information about pitch and weather conditions. And in 2003, Warne was pinged for a positive drugs test.

What the what? 
He returned a positive result for a banned diuretic. Many people who lived through that era will remember his defence – that it was a fat drug that he got from his mum. Essentially it was a tablet to remove excess fluid and help with a puffy face – vanity, thy name is Warne… 

So it wasn’t for his performance? 
No, but it was on the banned list because it was thought to mask performance-enhancing drugs. He talked about it being his biggest professional low and he was banned for a year. 

What about his personal indiscretions?
Where do you start… He was serially unfaithful to his wife and became tabloid fodder because of it. His marriage to Simone ended over his cheating and he talked about the hurt and humiliation he brought her and their three children Brooke, Jackson and Summer. He said it was the biggest regret in life.

That was messy… 
But he was able to maintain good relationships with them all because he said he owned his mistakes. Warne was also engaged to English celeb Elizabeth Hurley but it didn’t work out, but they remained mates. And then there was his relationship with Sharon Strzelecki of Kath and Kim fame…

Didn’t she marry a Shane Warne impersonator? 
Oh yeah, that’s right… 

And what did he do after cricket?
Warne trod a well-worn path to become a broadcast commentator. He did that in Australia, the UK and in India. He also became a professional poker player and lent his name to charitable causes. And he had commercial interests in a gin distillery and a clothing line. And in recent weeks, he had been promoting a feature-length documentary on his life entitled Shane, that’s on Amazon Prime.

What was he doing in Thailand?
He was in Koh Samui for a break after shooting and promoting that doco when he had a suspected heart attack and died – the official cause of death is still pending. He was 52yo. 

Sum him up for me… 
How about this quote from an ESPN article following news of his death? “When Warne likened his life to a soap opera he was selling himself short. His story was part fairytale, part pantomime, part adults-only romp, part glittering awards ceremony.”

Good one. And what’s the reaction been? 
The MCG will rename the massive Great Southern Stand after him – it’ll be the SK Warne stand – a fitting tribute. And he will have a state funeral – details are pending. 

Vale Warney. 

And tell me about Rod Marsh. 
We’re going back a couple of generations before Warne’s time, but Rod Marsh was a huge figure in Australian cricket between 1970 and 1984. Put simply, he was one of Test cricket’s greatest-ever wicketkeepers.

Give me the stats…
Marsh played 96 Tests for Australia and he had a hand in 355 dismissals, which was a world record at the time. He was the first Aussie wicketkeeper to score a Test century, and he also had a famous partnership with legendary fast bowler Dennis Lillee. 

How so? 
Together they were the most prolific bowler-wicketkeeper union in Test history. ‘Caught Marsh, bowled Lillee’ was recorded 95 times in the results books, and that’s a record that still stands today. 

And he was still involved in cricket after his retirement, wasn’t he?
That’s putting it mildly. He was head of the Australian Cricket Academy in Adelaide, where he worked with the likes of Warne, Ricky Ponting and plenty of other talented youngsters – and that helped usher in that dominant era of Australian cricket that Warne was part of. 

Anything else? 
And he was a national selector for many years, including as head selector before he stepped down in 2016.

What was his approach? 
Marsh’s attitude was cricket was a simple game and you didn’t need to overcomplicate things. And there are plenty of stories about his relaxed, larger than life character.

Give me one…
Let’s start by saying that this was a different time… Marsh was known as a “loveable larrikin” and he had quite a bit of enthusiasm for a beverage. He famously drank 51 cans of beer on a flight to England in 1983, breaking the record of 44 by team-mate Doug Walters. He had to be wheeled through customs in Heathrow on a baggage trolley.

That’s would have been quite something… 
Greg Chappell wrapped it up nicely after news of Marsh’s death, saying he was the “spiritual leader” of the team, who was not afraid to speak his mind. And Marsh actually came up with the team song the players sing after a win – Under The Southern Cross I Stand – and that’s been handed down through the generations.

And away from cricket? 
Marsh was a strong family man and many of those eulogising him say he was devoted to his wife Ros. His son Paul said he was “an incredible husband, father and grandfather”. It was a difficult week for them leading up to his death.

So what happened? 
He had a heart attack in late February in Bundaberg, Queensland. He was there for a charity event. He was placed in a coma and taken home to Adelaide, but did not recover. He was 74yo. 

Another state funeral?
Yep, details to be announced. 

Squiz recommends:

Vale Shane Warne: Legends recall their favourite Warnie stories – The Unplayable Podcast

Rod Marsh’s best catches

Shane Warne’s 50 best wickets on home soil

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