Australian fast bowling great Glenn McGrath on Tuesday described former teammate and late leg-spinner Shane Warne as the ultimate competitor.

Warne, one of cricket's all-time greats, died of a suspected heart attack at the age of 52 in Thailand in March. "It has been a pretty tough year. We got through two years of Covid, and then I lost three really close friends. Firstly, Rod Marsh and then Warnie. And then Andrew Symonds recently. It has been tough," McGrath said during a panel discussion titled - Role of High Performance Centres in Achieving Excellence in Sports at Sportstar's South Sports Conclave in Chennai. The session was moderated by The Hindu’s Sports Editor K.C. Vijaya Kumar.

"Warnie was one of the most amazing guys we've ever met. He was just a normal bloke like the rest of us, but he lived an extraordinary life. Off the field, he got himself into a little bit of trouble. But on the field, he was the ultimate competitor. He loved the challenge that you got from bowling to the best batters. Off the field, he loved poker as well because it was one-on-one battle."

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Warne, who was named one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Century, claimed 708 Test wickets in a 15-year career for Australia between 1992 and 2007. He also won the ODI World Cup in 1999.

McGrath also recalled an interesting anecdote from the fourth Test against England in Melbourne in 2006. "I remember we had just announced our retirements after the 2006-07 series. It was a multi-day Test at the MCG," McGrath said. "That was Shane's home ground. Capacity crowd. 95000 people. Warnie was on 699 Test wickets. He was bowling to Andrew Strauss, the England captain. I remember fielding at mid-on, and he came over to me and said,"I am just going to keep it tight for an over or so. Then next over, I am going to toss one up. Strauss is going to slog sweep, and I will bowl him through the gate." I said, "Seems like a pretty good plan to me, Shane."

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"Warnie just knew the game so well. And so he set Strauss up. I don't know if Straussie was listening to us, but he didn't try to slog sweep. He tried to whip it over midwicket. And the ball dropped, turned, and Warne bowled him through the gate. He was running around. The crowd went up in celebration. 700 Test wickets. Absolutely incredible. But that was Shaney. He could execute what he wanted. An amazing guy to have at the other end. I want to thank him for a few of my wickets. He always said he would thank me for one or two of his wickets. To lose him at such a young age of 52... it has been a pretty horrible year."

Warne was farewelled at the MCG on March 30. "Anybody who saw the memorial for him at the MCG, I think that changed a lot of people's minds," McGrath said. "They didn't realise what he did behind the scenes. But it wasn't publicised what he gave back to the community. The humility that he had was, to me, a true character of a great person. I have still not come to terms with it."