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PM Boris Johnson, singer Mick Jagger lead England's tributes to Shane Warne

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London, March 5 (IANS) England Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a keen follower of the game of cricket, said he was “shocked” and “saddened” to hear about the demise of Australian spin legend Shane Warne at the age of 52 after suffering a suspected heart-attack in Thailand in Friday.

The crisis in Ukraine notwithstanding, Johnson found time out from his busy schedule to pay his tributes to Warne on Saturday, saying, “Totally shocked and saddened to hear about Shane Warne — a cricketing genius and one of the nicest guys you could meet, who also did a lot to help disadvantaged kids into sport.”

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The PM also posted an image of him holding a cricket bat with Warne by his side and surrounded by young players.

Celebrated English singer, songwriter, actor and film producer, Mick Jagger, whose love for the gentleman’s game is well known, tweeted, “I’m so saddened by the sudden death of Shane Warne. He brought such joy to the game and was the greatest spin bowler ever.”

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The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) too expressed its condolences saying, “One of the greatest of all-time. A legend. A genius. You changed Cricket. RIP Shane Warne.”

Former England captain Michael Atherton, writing for skysports.com said, “I don’t think many people read the game better than he (Warne) did, and of course he had great character and a way of putting it across.

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“All the intelligence you saw as a player came across in his commentary,” Atherton said of Warne, who was his fellow commentator in Sky Sports.

“Hearing the news, I was totally stunned. I don’t think I’ve ever been more shocked in my life. A man who had such vitality, full of energy and life and suddenly not to be there. He’s my age effectively — he’s a year younger than I am — so he’s somebody I played against a lot for a decade in Ashes cricket and I commentated alongside him for a long, long time so I know him pretty well,” added Atherton.

“But all the intelligence you saw as a player — I think he’s the most intelligent bowler I played against — came across in his commentary. And using the word intelligence, I’m not talking about A-Levels and that kind of thing, but raw cricketing intelligence which he had in spades. He was a fabulous bowler.”

Atherton said that leg spin was a dying art when Warne came on the big stage, with Australia dominated by pacers.

“Leg spin was a dying art when he was picked actually. With Australia, you think of the land of the wrist spinner, it’s where wrist spin flourished and really developed because of the hot sun and the hard pitches. But in the 70s it was pace bowling that dominated: Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson — and Lillee was Shane Warne’s hero when he was growing up.

“So wrist spinners had slightly withered away a little bit and it was almost this forgotten art, and then suddenly Allan Border picked him (Warne) in 1992. The early Tests were a bit in and out and then obviously that first Ashes Test match at Old Trafford in 1993, we hadn’t seen much of him until that point, and unlike today it wasn’t a time where you had a lot of footage of opposition players.

“He came a little bit under the radar, but not after he bowled Mike Gatting. And then for the next 15 years, he was the superstar of the game,” added Atherton.

–IANS

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