|Player:||SK Warne, R Benaud, MW Gatting, AR Border, GF Lawson, DG Bradman, N Hussain, RJ Hadlee, DW Fleming, AC Gilchrist, GD McGrath, DR Martyn|
The cricket world heaped praise on retiring Australian great Shane Warne on Thursday while many expressed shock at his sudden departure. "Shane Warne is without doubt the finest leg-spinner the world has ever seen," former Australian Test captain, legspin bowler and cricket commentator Richie Benaud said. "You would certainly have Warne right up there as one of the greatest Australians to ever step on the field," he said, adding Warne would leave a huge gap in the game. Former England captain Mike Gatting, who fell prey to Warne's 'ball of the century' in 1993, heaped praise on his former adversary. "He's the best leg spinner there's ever been," Gatting said. "He'll be hard to replace - not just by Australia but by cricket in general." Many were surprised at Warne's announcement he would retire at the end of the current Ashes series while still at the height of his powers, even though he is aged 37. "I just got the inkling that he was even considering one more tilt at England in England (in 2009) and that would see him out, but it's just caught everyone by surprise," said former Australian captain Allan Border. "He's in superb touch, he's bowling well physically," he said. "He's been a breath of fresh air for the game." Former Australian bowler Geoff Lawson told FOX Sports Warne would have gone on to take 1,000 wickets if he had chosen to remain in the game. "I'm absolutely gobsmacked by this - he's just bowling so terrifically," he said. "I thought he might still have another three, four years left in the game and in fact I've lost a lot of money because I backed him to take 1,000 Test wickets and it's not going to happen now." Australian Prime Minister John Howard applauded Warne for his "massive contribution" to cricket. "I thank him for the massive contribution he's made to Australian cricket," Howard said. "He's the greatest slow bowler this country has had and the greatest slow bowler the world has seen and he's done amazing things for the art of leg-break bowling." Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland paid Warne the huge compliment of evoking Donald Bradman, the batsman regarded as Australia's greatest ever player. "There are a generation of Australians who were privileged enough to see Bradman. We are the generation that will always say we were privileged to see Warne," Sutherland said. Sutherland described Warne's 699 Test wickets as staggering, but said the bowler's career transcended statistics. "To personally change the course of so many games, to excite the public imagination about cricket the way he has, and to inspire a generation of Australian kids to take up the once neglected art of leg-spinning takes him beyond the stats and puts him in a league of his own," he said. Former England captain Nasser Hussain described Warne as "the reason you played cricket" and New Zealand great Sir Richard Hadlee, a former Test-wicket record-holder, said the sport would be poorer for his departure. "A lot of batsmen in world cricket will be delighted to learn he's leaving the game, but I think the game will be poorer without him," the former seam bowling kingpin told Radio Sport. "He has been a match-winner, flamboyant and just incredible to watch." Damien Fleming, a former teammate of Warne's, said the bowler's place in history was assured. "He is one of the greatest cricketers of all time and we will never see his like again," he said. Wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, whose cries of "bowled Warnie" followed many of Warne's deliveries, said he would miss his teammate. "What he's done for the game, the colour he's added, the character that he's brought to the game, he's going to be tough to replace," he said. More of Australia's victorious Test team are also expected to pull up stumps next year, with fast bowler Glenn McGrath tipped to announce his retirement soon, while batsmen Damien Martyn quit suddenly just before the third Ashes Test. Australia's opposition leader Kevin Rudd said the ebullient Warne's departure would change the face of Australian cricket. "I don't know how it's going to unfold in the future without Shane Warne in the team," he told reporters. Sports Minister Rod Kemp said Warne was a legend of the sport. "Shane is widely regarded as the world's greatest-ever bowler," Kemp said.