Tens of thousands of people gathered at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday for the memorial of legendary Australian cricketer Shane Warne, with the likes of Sir Elton John, former England captain Nasser Hussain and Warne’s family giving touching tributes.
The former leg-spinner, considered one of the greatest cricketers of all-time, died aged 52 earlier this month from a suspected heart attack while on holiday in Koh Samui, Thailand.
A private funeral service was held for Warne’s closest friends and family in Melbourne last week but all were invited to Wednesday’s televised memorial where his father Keith mourned the loss of “a loving and caring son” and former team-mates remembered a fierce competitor on the field and a mischievous soul off of it.
A slew of other athletes, Hollywood actors and musicians, including Kylie Minogue, Hugh Jackman and Greg Norman, also offered video tributes to Warne.
Elton John performs ‘Don’t let the sun go down on me’ from the United States in tribute to Shane Warne for his memorial service at the MCG.
Chris Martin of Coldplay plays a rendition of ‘Yellow’ in tribute to Shane Warne for his memorial service in Melbourne.
Among the musical performers, Sir Elton John joined via video link from the United States, singing ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’, while Coldplay frontman, Chris Martin, performed ‘Yellow’, Robbie Williams sung ‘Angels’ and Ed Sheeran played ‘Thinking Out Loud’.
As the state service got under way, with chants echoing around the MCG, Greta Bradman – the granddaughter of Sir Donald Bradman, named alongside Warne as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Century in 2000 – sung the Australian national anthem.
The Shane Warne Stand is unveiled at the Melbourne Cricket Ground at the climax of the memorial service of the late Australian cricketer.
Then, to round off the evening, after touching speeches from Warne’s three children, Summer, Jackson and Brooke, and with the Frank Sinatra classic ‘My Way’ playing in the background, the new Shane Warne Stand – previously the Great Southern Stand – was officially unveiled.
Keith Warne, Shane’s father, was the first to speak, saying: “Friday, 4 March, 2002, the darkest day in our family’s life. It was the day that our son was tragically and suddenly taken from us.
https://resources.skysports.com/embed/amp/video/5723378#amp=1Shane Warne’s father Keith pays tribute to his son at the memorial service at the MCG as the world remembers the Australian cricketer.
“The family lost a beloved son, a loving brother to Jason and a devoted father to Brooke, Jackson and Summer. And the world lost a much-loved cricket legend whose feats on and off the cricket field will go down in history for all time.
“Looking forward to a future without Shane is inconceivable, but we do take comfort in knowing that Shane packed more into his life of 52, five months and 19 days than most people would in two lifetimes.”
Keith added: “We are grateful the world loved our son as we did and thankfully touched so many lives in so many ways.
“Shane said of himself ‘I smoked, I drank, and I played a little cricket’.
“Mate, your mother and I can’t imagine a life without you. You have been taken too soon and our hearts are broken. Thank you for all you did for us. And for being such a loving and caring son.
“Rest in peace. Love you, Mum and Dad.”
‘Genius’, ‘genuine’, ‘entertainer’, ‘King’
A panel was hosted by Mark Howard with former cricketing greats, Australian trio Allan Border, Mark Taylor and Merv Hughes, along with England’s Nasser Hussain and West Indies’ Brian Lara.
Asked to describe Warne in one word, Border used “genius”, with fellow former Australia captain Taylor saying “genuine”. Hughes generated some laughs from the assembled crowd when he said “dead set bogan”, while ex-England captain Hussain referred to Warne as an “entertainer” and Windies batting great Lara referred to his old rival as “The King”.
The quintet were then also asked what they’d choose to say if Warne was here now and they had the opportunity.
An emotional Border said: “Thank you for revitalising my captaincy towards the end of my time. I was lucky enough to have two years with Shane and I’d just thank him for that.”
Hughes added: “Thanks for being a great mate. One of the most loyal people; the people that don’t know him think he is the way he is because of what he did in Test cricket, but it’s the reverse. He did what he did because of the way he is.
“A super bloke and I feel sorry for the people around Australia who never met him.”
Hussain: He just seemed to wait for me to come out
Speaking as part of the panel, Hussain also recalled a famous battle between himself and Warne in a one-day final between England and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1999.
“I had no delight in playing against Shane. He was a king bowler, but also a great sledger,” Hussain said. “And he just seemed to wait for me to come out.
“We were just thrilled to be in a final – usually we were in the hotel, to be honest – and he had been sledging me all day.
“He brought himself on to bow. AB [Allan Border] had told him before, ‘if you’re struggling, pick a fight with someone’. He picks a fight with me, I sledged him back for some reason – I’ve said something like ‘enjoy your last game as captain’.
“At the time it seemed like a really good thing to do because we needed 40 off 10 overs with seven wickets in hand.
“I ran down the pitch to the very next delivery – stumped [Adam] Gilchrist, bowled Warne – and my shot doesn’t get any better 20 years later. I am in a different post code to the ball.
“We lost seven for 30, lost by 10 runs and Bumble didn’t speak to me for a month.”
Tendulkar: You will continue to live in my heart
Numerous more former team-mates, competitors and friends of Warne’s gave video tributes over the course of the ceremony, including India batting great Sachin Tendulkar, former colleague with Sky Sports, England’s Sir Ian Botham, and Australians Glenn McGrath and Michael Clarke.
Lord Ian Botham, Sachin Tendulkar and Glenn McGrath pay their tributes to Shane Warne during his memorial service in Melbourne.
Tendulkar: “Warney I remember was always extremely competitive and did everything possible to disturb the opposition, to dismiss them. But when someone batted well, he was the first one to walk up to you and congratulate you.
“That is how our friendship and respect for each other grew. Warney, my friend, I will miss you big time and and you’ll continue to live in my heart.”
Botham: “There is only ever going to be one Shane Warne. You were magnificent on and off the field – a magnificent advert for the wonderful game of cricket.
“You will never be replaced mate. Rest in peace.”
McGrath: “The thing I loved most about Shane is the effect he had on people. I remember talking to a group of people and they’d all have a different perception of him, Shane would walk across, have a chat and within 30 seconds, every single one of them loved him.
“There was a certain charisma he had, certain aura about him that just made people attracted to him. It never ceased to amaze me the positive effect he had on so many people.”
Clarke: “Thank you. That’s all I can say really. Thank you for everything, the way you looked after me and treated me when I first came into that Australian team. I was such a baby and you took me under your wing.