Shane Warne was unique, an icon and the greatest spinner we have seen
He was also an inspiration because so many people wanted to bowl leg-spin like him, but never got close to his standards.
For me he is the greatest spinner. I never saw the great Bill O’Reilly, who Bradman said was the best he ever faced. He bowled a quicker leg-spinner than Shane, but did not spin it as much.
Warne was an enormous turner of the ball and because he was so accurate, he could have so many fielders around the bat.
For a great percentage of his career, he bowled with three or four fielders around the bat attacking. You have to be so accurate when you have fields like that.
If he got the length and line wrong, those close in fielders would have been in physical danger, but his team-mates had the confidence to stay there. He was that good.
I once said to him, “I would have loved to face you”. Not because I was arrogant enough to think I would play him better than anyone else. But to me, it would have been a great challenge to face the best spin bowler of his generation and see if I could succeed. If you did, it was like climbing Mount Everest.
I had the privilege of playing a lot of great fast bowlers – Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Peter Pollock, Malcolm Marshall, Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson – I know what that challenge was like. To face Shane would have been unique, and I would have loved to have had that chance to have a go at it.
I know Muttiah Muralitharan took more wickets, but for me Shane was in a different league. You have to be honest, many people around the world felt Murali’s action was a problem.
I am not being nasty about Murali or belittling his performances, but there was never any doubt about Shane’s action. Every time I happened to be working in the same series, we always stopped and chatted. He had a great cricket brain.
He would have made a wonderful captain of Australia. Sometimes authorities do not want people who have larger than life personalities. They want someone who will not get into trouble off the field. But when I listened to him on commentary, he would say what a team should be doing before it happened, not following the ball. That is what he did as a bowler. He worked out batsmen. That transmitted itself when he was commentating.
He could think several moves ahead. He could shift fielders around like chess pieces to work out how to take wickets. You need a sharp mind and quick brain to do that.