Warne was a cricketing genius with working-class desperation to win: Ian Healy

Healy says Warne's skills meant the keeper was always involved. He throws light on his game that put into perspective why Warne almost singlehandedly revived the art of leg-spin in the early 1990s.

For Shane Warne's former teammate and close friend Ian Healy, the last couple of days have been unbelievable.   -  GETTY IMAGES

For Shane Warne's former teammate and close friend Ian Healy, the last couple of days have been unbelievable. "The news hasn’t sunk in yet, I feel like he will appear once again," Healy tells Sportstar.

Warne, one of cricket's all-time greats, died of a suspected heart attack at the age of 52 in Koh Samui, Thailand, while on holiday. Warne claimed 708 Test wickets in a 15-year career for Australia between 1992 and 2007 and was also an ODI World Cup winner in 1999.

Healy says Warne's skills meant the keeper was always involved. He throws light on his game that put into perspective why Warne almost singlehandedly revived the art of leg-spin in the early 1990s. "Strong hands and wrist, which enabled him to spin a leg-spinner very hard," Healy says. "Those revolutions made the ball swing into a right-hander or across a left-hander. With all that under control, his cricket brain could then operate on the strategies set for each batsman. He could read how a batsman was feeling very well, and he could notice each new plan they tried against him, tell them he was onto it, and do something different. This is very unusual for a leg-spinner to be so versatile. Energy into the opponent was matched by energy into our team and the challenges of Test cricket. He was a cricketing genius with working-class desperation to win. So often, the genius types are above such desperation."

 

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Any discussion on Warne isn't complete without his opening delivery in Ashes cricket coming up or more commonly known as The Ball of the Century. Warne arrived in England in 1993 with 11 Tests and 31 wickets to his name. In that first Test, which Australia went on to win by 179 runs, he was bowling on an Old Trafford pitch that had enough help for the spinners.

Any discussion on Warne isn't complete without his opening delivery in Ashes cricket coming up or more commonly known as The Ball of the Century.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Shortly before lunch on the second day, Gatting walked out at number three and faced Warne's first ball. Healy, who was behind the stumps, recalls the moment that introduced the cricket world to a new hero. "It wasn’t the most viciously swinging and spinning delivery he had bowled on the previous short tour of New Zealand just prior," Healy says. "But it did everything just enough. Swung /drifted into Gatt’s (Mike Gatting's) legside, he seemed to be ‘spectating‘ it which made him a touch slow and didn’t smother it. This then made his bat come down a touch late, and it spun just enough and no more, to hit the top of the off-stump! A great combination which signalled the beginning of a very tough time for English batsmen."

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Warne played 145 Tests and 194 ODIs. Healy says memorable spells were plenty, but many Ashes tests in England stood out for him. "Those games followed a pattern of their top order starting quite well against the new ball, and then the run rate slowed, and/or wickets fell when Warney entered the attack."

Healy describes his relationship with Warne as "friends first, teammates later". "We formed a relationship two seasons before him playing for Australia. It was during an Australia XI game against the tourists in Hobart. I guess we unearthed his skill together and put all the possibilities out there of just how good he could be against the best batters as well as the tailenders."

Away from the cricket field, Warne courted controversy. Revelations about his personal life meant he was never far from the front pages of the tabloids. In 1995, both he and his then team-mate Mark Waugh were fined for giving information to an Indian bookmaker during the 1994 tour of Sri Lanka. Healy says Warne "certainly" compartmentalized off-field incidents, so that his cricket wasn’t affected or his team’s chances. "But that doesn’t mean he didn’t worry about them or those who were being affected. He was genuine, generous and loyal."

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