Sri Lankans will stand to attention in a fitting salute to all-time cricketing great Australian spin wizard Shane Warne when the first Test between Sri Lanka and Australia gets underway on June 29 at the Galle International Stadium. Sri Lanka Cricket’s (SLC’s) noble gesture to dedicate the first Test to the memory of Warne, will indeed be a moving solemn occasion that will kindle stirring memories of Warne who died prematurely at the age of 53 of a heart attack on March 4 this year while holidaying in Thailand.
The Sri Lankan cricket establishment’s gesture is one of recognising Warne as a true friend of Sri Lanka who came to the country’s aid during the 2004 Tsunami devastation by personally flying over and visiting affected areas and making generous donations especially to homeless cricketers families. This writer had the privilege of having a word with the legend on that occasion when he visited the Moratuwa Cricket Stadium where several teenage cricketers were lined up in a guard of honour. He did voice that he was concerned about the welfare of Sri Lankans affected and as much saddened by the devastation of the Galle Stadium.
For Galle was the venue where the Australian great became the first bowler in test cricket history to take 500 wickets. Therein, this June 29 will surely evoke moving memories of Shane Warne, the unrelenting cricketing warrior in the middle who gave no quarter nor asked for any, but who proved to be a true friend to his adversaries off the field in time of distress.
Indeed Warne, by his magnanimous act did signify that the game of cricket transcended beyond the boundaries of competition. It has been recognised by Sri Lanka Cricket by its decision to pay tribute to Warne posthumously by dedicating the Galle test in memory of the great.
Born Shane Keith Warne on September 13, 1969, the Australian went on to turn the art of spin bowling on its head by taking it to a new level. Among his most famous wicket taking deliveries was the arm ball that stood him out. He claimed a record 708 Test wickets from 145 appearances and 293 ODI wickets from 194 games. Warne is also remembered as perhaps the most colourful personality the game has produced by his outgoing approach and his endearing chuckle and big grin.