Shane Warne was remembered as a “genius” at a state memorial service at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday attended by tens of thousands of spectators and legendary players, with music stars including Elton John performing by video link.
The well-loved Australian cricketer died at a luxury resort in Thailand this month from a suspected heart attack aged 52, eliciting shock and grief from his millions of fans as well as prime ministers, rock stars and fellow players.
The larger-than-life “king of spin” was being honoured in a two-hour service in front of about 50,000 fans that was beamed live to cricket grounds across Australia and watched around the world.
“Looking forward to a future without Shane is inconceivable,” his father Keith said after batting great Donald Bradman’s granddaughter Greta sang the national anthem to kick off proceedings.
“But we take comfort in knowing that Shane packed more into his life of 52 years, five months and 19 days than most people would in two life-times.” A stand at the MCG was to be officially re-named after Warne, who in the eyes of many is second only to Bradman in Australia’s long list of sporting greats.
Some fans attending wore their cricket kit, while others donned Warne T-shirts.
Emotions ran high as they snapped pictures in front of his statue outside the MCG.
One woman showed off her new thigh tattoo of Warne, which she had done last week.
Mark Taylor, who captained Warne for Australia, said the huge interest showed “how admired Shane Warne was”.
“The fact he had that rough diamond character about him made him what people like to see. People like to see something a bit different, and they got that with Warnie,” Taylor told reporters.
Fellow Australian captain Allan Border called him “a genius”. “I don’t know how the Oxford dic-tionary defined genius, but he’s as close as I’ve been to genius, the way he developed his game and just transcended everything,” he said.
“He’s left us with a flood of memories and such great times.” Music stars Elton John, Chris Martin, Robbie Williams and Ed Sheeran were set to sing “dedicated songs” to Warne.
Also set to appear by video link were Hollywood stars Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman.
Cricketing greats such as Brian Lara, Nasser Hussain and Wasim Akram were among an array of sports stars at the service.
Warne’s former partner, the British actress Liz Hurley, was not expected to attend but will reportedly feature in the service.
Credited with reviving the art of leg-spin, Warne took 708 Test wickets as part of a dominant Australian team in the 1990s and 2000s before be-coming a respected commentator.
Before the state service in his memory, Warne’s family, friends and teammates mourned him at a private funeral on March 20.—APP