Shane Warne 1969-2022- cricketer and teacher – RIP

I heard about the death of Rod Marsh when I woke up this morning. When my son told me this afternoon that Shane Warne had died, I thought he had got his names mixed up. An unbelievable double loss on the same day. I never met Rod Marsh. I did once, briefly, meet Shane Warne.

One day in 1993 during the Ashes tour to England, the old TODAY newspaper ran a competition. The prize was one of ten places for school-age cricketers on a half-day of coaching from a young Shane Warne at Micky Stewart’s cricket coaching school in Surrey. The day was to be hosted by Alec Stewart. The only qualification, other than being below a certain age, I can’t remember exactly what age, was being able to bowl leg-spin.

My 13-year-old son was a club leg spinner at the time and could give the ball a bit of a rip, and so I entered his name. He duly won one of the ten places and off we went to the cricket school. After introductions, the session began with Warne, kitted out in whites, giving a demonstration by bowling to Stewart and continued with Warne giving the young bowlers intense and enthusiastic tuition. I gained the impression he probably never did anything by halves. It also occurred to me that had he not been able to bowl he might have made a decent teacher.

The session ended with each of the young bowlers, eyes wide open and alight with excitement, being given one ball at Warne who got himself properly padded up, took a guard from Stewart and awaited the first ball. He gently prodded each ball back down the net with a word of encouragement to the bowler.

Came my son’s turn. He managed to get the ball straight and pitched more or less in the right place and put quite a rip on it. Warne came forward, played for the spin, but the ball went straight through and wacked him on the pad. My son was dumbstruck and just stood looking. “Howzat” bellowed Warne as if he were appealing for the deciding Ashes wicket at the MCG. No sooner had he appealed than his finger went up. “That’s out,” he said to the assembled leg spinners and parents. “If you are going to get anywhere lads,” he said, “you have to be honest with yourself.”

My son picked up the ball and came back to me. “How on earth did you get that to go straight through?” I asked. “I tried to spin it,” he said, “but it wasn’t down to me. It was this.” He showed me the ball he had been given. I don’t know what sort of ball it was but, although a cricket ball in size and weight, it was completely smooth. It had no seam at all.

RIP Mr. Warne. – bowler and, just for one day, teacher.