Friday, December 22, 2006

Shane Warne to call it quits after Sydney

SPIN-KING STEPS DOWN - Test cricket’s greatest bowler Shane Warne announced his retirement from international competition on Thursday, drawing the curtain on one of the most celebrated careers in the sport’s history.

Saying he wanted to go out on top, the 37-year-old Australian legspinner with a world record 699 Test wickets revealed the two remaining Ashes Tests against England will be his last international matches.

“It’s been unbelievable — my ride in international cricket’s been phenomenal,” an upbeat Warne told a packed media conference at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Warne said he had also retired from Australian domestic cricket but will see out the remaining two years of his contract with English county side Hampshire.

Fast bowler Glenn McGrath is also tipped to announce his retirement soon, while batsmen Damien Martyn quit suddenly just before the third Ashes Test.

Warne said he had considered retiring after the 2005 Ashes but decided to press on after Australia’s shock loss to England set him on “a mission to get that urn back”.

The goal was accomplished in emphatic fashion last week when Australia took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series and Warne said he could now retire happily, even though his remarkable bowling prowess remains intact.

He broke the news to captain Ricky Ponting as the team celebrated its Ashes victory in Perth.

“While the team’s successful I think it’s a good time to go out on top,” Warne said, declaring “now is my time” and saying he could not imagine reversing the decision.

Warne’s Test record and largerthan-life personality have already assured his status as a legend in the game. The Sydney Daily Telegraph declared Warne’s departure as the “end of an era” and the Australian newspaper hailed him as cricket’s best ever bowler.

“I don’t think I could have written the script any better,” he told the press conference.

Warne — almost as well-known for his off-pitch antics including a series of sex scandals, a positive drugs test and bookmaking controversies — said he was looking forward to time away from the spotlight. “I suppose there’s always going to be attention on what I’m doing in my personal life, offfield... hopefully it won’t be to the same level, the same scrutiny, the same intensity, the same judgmental, moralistic sort of stuff,” he said.

The scandals led to Warne being stripped of the vice-captaincy in 2000 and probably prevented him from becoming Australian skipper, but he said he had no regrets.

“I’ve given everything I possibly could to the cause, and that was winning. Cricket to me is my hobby, my passion and I love doing it. Yeah, I’ll probably miss it... I’ve missed one-day cricket in the last few years.” WARNE TIMELINE September 13, 1969 — Born in Melbourne. January 1992 — Makes Test debut as a 22-year-old against India. In two Tests against India his overall figures were 1/228. August 1992 — Picked for short tour of Sri Lanka. After quiet start to first Test in Colombo, takes 3/11 from 5.1 overs in the second innings as Australia conjure a dramatic victory against the odds. June 1993 — After bagging 17 wickets in three Tests against New Zealand, he bamboozles Mike Gatting with his first ball in an Ashes Test at Old Trafford. It’s labelled the “Ball of the Century’’ and a superstar has arrived. December 1993 — Takes 7/52 against West Indies in Melbourne. 1994 — Leading wicket-taker in all three series he played in, rounding off the campaign with a hat-trick against England in Melbourne to help Australia retain the Ashes. He is Wisden Cricketer of the Year. 1995 — Mark Waugh and Warne were fined by the then ACB, now Cricket Australia, after admitting they supplied match information to an Indian bookmaker. July 1998 — Told by surgeons he might never play cricket again after an operation on his troublesome shoulder. June 1999 — Named Man of the Match in Australia’s World Cup final victory over Pakistan at Lord’s. March 2000 — Becomes Australia’s highest Test wickettaker by passing Dennis Lillee’s 355 in New Zealand. Named as one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Century. August 2001 — Claims 31 wickets as Australia retain the Ashes with a 4-1 win, taking 11/229 in the final Test. October 2002 — Named Man of the Series as he claims 27 wickets as Australia record a 3-0 win in Pakistan. Takes his tally to 477 Test wickets. February 2003 — Receives a 12-month suspension from the ACB for taking a banned diuretic that he claims was given to him by his mother to help lose weight. The failed drug test is announced on the eve of the World Cup and he leaves to Australia. March 2004 — In his return to Tests after his ban, he takes 26 wickets in Sri Lanka and passes 500 career victims. October 2004 — Overtakes Muttiah Muralitharan in India to claim the world record for the most Test wickets. December 17, 2005 — Breaks Lillee’s record of 85 Test wickets in a calendar year. December 18, 2006 — Takes the final wicket, his 699th in Tests, to win back the Ashes for Australia at Perth. December 21, 2006 — Announces his retirement.

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