Shock and tributes as Aussie cricket great Shane Warne dies on Koh Samui
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Shock and tributes as Aussie cricket great Shane Warne dies on Koh Samui

Shane Warne in action for Australia in 2006. (AFP photo)
Shane Warne in action for Australia in 2006. (AFP photo)

SYDNEY: Australian star Shane Warne -- one of the greatest Test players of all time -- has died of a suspected heart attack aged just 52, sparking an outpouring of grief from fellow cricketers, celebrities and politicians.

Warne a larger-than-life character whose tally of 708 Test wickets has been surpassed only by fellow spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, was found unresponsive at a luxury resort in Koh Samui on Friday.

"Shane was found unresponsive in his villa and despite the best efforts of medical staff, he could not be revived," a statement from his management company said.

A Thai medical source told AFP that companions and emergency staff performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation but to no avail.

His body was brought to the Thai International Hospital Samui at around 6pm from Samujana Villas, northeast of Koh Samui, medical staff said.

The announcement came just hours after the death was announced of fellow Australian great Rod Marsh, one of cricket's outstanding wicketkeepers -- with Warne himself tweeting a tribute.

As Australia awoke to the news on Saturday, fans began laying flowers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where there is a statue in his honour.

Credited with reviving the art of leg-spin, Warne was part of a dominant Australian Test team in the 1990s and 2000s and helped his country win the 1999 limited-overs World Cup.

Australian captain Pat Cummins, currently leading the team on a tour of Pakistan, said he was "a hero" to the current generation of cricketers.

"The loss that we are all trying to wrap our heads around is huge," he said in a video message. "The game was never the same after Warnie emerged, and the game will never be the same after his passing."

Warne's inestimable impact was reflected by his inclusion in a list of the Wisden Cricketers of the 20th Century, alongside Donald Bradman, Garfield Sobers, Jack Hobbs and Viv Richards.

West Indian great Richards said he was "shocked to the core".

"There are no words to describe what I feel right now, he tweeted.

Bursting onto the scene as a brash young player with a shock of blond hair, Warne became almost as well known for a colourful life away from cricket as he was for his exploits on the field.

Both he and Australia team-mate Mark Waugh were fined for accepting money from a bookmaker and Warne was suspended for 12 months after failing a drugs test on the eve of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, having taken a diuretic.

The first bowler to take 700 Test wickets with an assortment of leg-breaks, googlies, flippers and his own "zooters", Warne retired from Australia duty in 2007 following a 5-0 series win at home to arch-rivals England.

He played 145 Tests in total over a 15-year career, taking 708 wickets, and was also a useful lower-order batsman, with a highest Test score of 99.

In addition to his international exploits, Warne also enjoyed a successful career with his Australian state side Victoria.

And while his private life effectively ruled him out of captaining Australia, for all his acknowledged tactical acumen, Warne did skipper English county team Hampshire.

'An honour'

Following his international retirement Warne continued to star on the Twenty20 franchise circuit, appearing for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League and his home town Melbourne Stars in Australia's Big Bash League.

He subsequently became a highly regarded television commentator and pundit, renowned for his forthright opinions.

Warne was also involved with team coaching -- most recently at London Spirit in England's new Hundred competition -- and he worked individually too with current-day leg-spinners.

Warne was divorced from wife Simone Callahan, with whom he had three children. He also had high-profile relationship with British actress Liz Hurley.

India batting great Sachin Tendulkar wrote on Twitter of his ex-rival: "Shocked, stunned & miserable... Will miss you Warnie. There was never a dull moment with you around."

Former Australia team-mate Adam Gilchrist said he was "numb". "The highlight of my cricketing career was to keep wicket to Warnie. Best seat in the house to watch the maestro at work."

His death also attracted the attention of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, a big cricket fan, who said he was "so saddened".

"He brought such joy to the game and was the greatest spin bowler ever," said the English singer, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "totally shocked".

"A cricketing genius and one of the nicest guys you could meet, who also did a lot to help disadvantaged kids into sport," said Johnson.

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