Australian cricket legend Adam Gilchrist has penned an emotional tribute to his late friend Shane Warne after his tragic passing from a suspected heart attack at the age of 52.
In a column for The Daily Telegraph, Gilchrist revealed his disbelief at the news of Warne’s death before summing up what made the legendary cricketer and the man so special.
“My family are not known as punters but on Saturday night in Perth we had an important little detour to the roulette tables,” Gilchrist wrote in The Daily Telegraph.
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“We were celebrating my wife’s Mel’s 50th birthday at the Crown Casino and felt it essential to have a little dabble on 23 red … Shane Warne’s favourite number and one which will forever be linked with his name.
“Warnie’s death still doesn’t feel real to me and I was so shocked when my son Archie told me he had heard the news from a mate I had to wait to have it officially confirmed before I believed it.”
Warne’s passing came right on the heels of Gilchrist’s hero Rod Marsh’s death in a horror week for the former Australian wicket-keeper.
“There are times when Rod Marsh or Shane Warne would call me and I couldn’t believe I had their number in my phone,” Gilchrist wrote.
“Both may have passed but I promise you this — I could never delete their numbers from my phone.
“Already I cast my mind forward to next summer and it feels empty. I know time heals and people come in but there’s only one Warnie.
“I heard from Warnie just eight hours before he died because he contacted me to say he enjoyed a little tribute piece I did for Fox Cricket on Rod’s passing.”
Gilchrist played with Warne in both test and One Day Cricket for over a decade and can thank Warne for a large chunk of his Australian record 416 dismissals.
However it was the more personal memories with Warne that Gilchrist will always treasure and he paid tribute to the King of spin’s generosity of spirit.
“Memories? Where do we start?” Gilchrist wrote.
“His generosity, underestimated by those who didn’t know him, was a strong suit of Warnie’s. I remember flying home with a knee injury after the third Test at Old Trafford in 1997 and Warnie was on the same flight because his daughter Brooke was born.
“We flew home together and he used his points to upgrade me to first class. Sitting next to a legend who had just become a father was an experience I will always cherish.
“At Christmas he would pay for a lavish function at his home and I know the English team benefited from his generosity this summer.
“A number of the English players flew via helicopter to an exclusive golf club outside Melbourne after Warnie arranged the flights and rounds of golf for them.
“I know they gave Warnie a gift for doing so but when the bill came in it was five figures.
When the bill arrived Warnie’s reaction was “oh, okay then.’’
“At no point did he say “are they going to pay me?’’ He just quietly fixed up the bill and moved on.
“There was no complaining or whinging from Warnie. That was typical of the man and his generosity of spirit.”
Gilchrist revealed the pair became even closer after their playing days as they worked together for Fox Cricket.
“But it was his brilliance on the field that Gilchrist had front row seats to witness that he will always hold close to his heart.
“My relationship with him which was already established from playing with him and it reached new heights in our four years together at Fox Cricket,” Gilchrist wrote.
“There were times when Warnie’s brilliant mind games felt like a Spielberg production when I kept to him.
“You could feel Warnie’s intimidation from the top of his mark. He’d wait and pause – and pause again – particularly to a new batter who would occasionally pull out of his stance which would only make Warnie start walking in.
“He scrambled the batters mind and would turn and talk the umpire – he loved South Africa’s Rudi Koertzen – and say things like “get ready for that wrong un.’’ It was mesmerising.”
Apart from his unrivalled skill, Gilchrist also remembered Warne’s stoic commitment to spin bowling and to doing everything in his power to help his teams win cricket games.
“Toughness of mind and body was one of Warnie’s most underrated strengths,” Gilchrist wrote.
“He may have lived the Hollywood lifestyle and been an A lister of the highest order but, in a cricketing sense, he got down and dirty and worked really, really hard and had shoulder and finger surgeries and just put them aside.”
However Gilchrist will remember most the humour of the man and those magical Tests and One Day Internationals he spent watching the greatest bowler ever work his magic.
“He was one of small number of people who called me Church after the day an English Kiwi fan called me Eric Gilchurch and I enjoyed it as a term of endearment,” Gilchrist wrote.
“I’ve stated this always and will until I’m not around to say it around it any longer but the highlight of my cricket career was to wicketkeep to Warnie.
“To sit behind the stumps and see the theatre unfold from a showman of the highest order was an experience I will cherish for life.”