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Warne's retirement: X'mas present to batsmen

Fleming describes Warne as 'extremely gracious' and remembers the Australian's consideration when he was new to Test cricket.

india Updated: Dec 22, 2006 01:19 IST

Two of Shane Warne's closest cricketing "neighbours" were among the first to sing the Australian leg-spinner's praises after Warne's retirement announcement on Thursday.

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming said Warne was the greatest bowler to have played cricket and his retirement was a Christmas present to all batsmen.

"As far as the game goes I don't think anyone's done more than what he's done," Fleming said. "He's been a presence. He's introduced young talent to spin bowling.

"At most coaching camps you go to people are wanting to bowl wrist spin like Shane Warne if they can. That's a massive effect to have."

Sir Richard Hadlee, the former Test wicket world record-holder from New Zealand, said cricket will be poorer for Warne's retirement.

"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," Hadlee said in a radio interview.

"He has been a match-winner, flamboyant and just incredible to watch. I've admired his skills over a long period of time." Hadlee, who retired in 1990 with a then world-record total of 431 Test wickets, said Warne's occasional misbehavior off the field did not diminish his achievements.

"As far as I'm concerned it doesn't diminish any of his achievements whatsoever," he said.

"When you're a high-profile person, people are looking to attack your personal life, perhaps pull you down," he said. "To Warne's credit, he's still soldiered on. His performances on the field do all the talking."

Fleming described Warne as "extremely gracious" and remembered the Australian's consideration when he was new to test cricket. "He was generous with his time and that's basically why I've been friends with him ever since," Fleming said. "On and off the field there's been areas of controversy sure, but statistically he's the greatest bowler that ever played.

"He was tough, very, very competitive but he had a cheeky streak about him. His retirement is a Christmas present to all batsmen." Former Pakistan captain and star batsman Javed Miandad said although he never played against the Australian, "Warne was the bowler who could bowl leg-spin, flippers and googlies with utmost perfection."

"Warne could have easily played a year or two (more), but it's Australian history that a player retires when he's at his peak form," added Miandad.

Former Pakistani fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz compared Warne to Sir Donald Bradman, recognized as the greatest batsman to have ever played cricket.

"Warne is the bowler's Bradman," said Nawaz. "He always made batsmen think with his variety of deliveries. The cricketing world would miss him a lot. I wish he could have continued to play on.

" Former Australian test captain Richie Benaud said Warne was "without doubt the finest leg spinner the world has ever seen." "You would certainly have Warne right up there as one of the greatest Australians to ever step on the field," added Benaud.

Former England captain Mike Gatting, who was bowled by the spinner's "Ball of the Century" in Warne's first Ashes appearance in 1993, also said Warne was the world's best leg-spinner. "He'll be hard to replace- not just by Australia but by cricket in general," said Gatting.

Another former England captain, Nasser Hussain, said Warne was always a tough foe.

"For me, he was the reason you played cricket," said Hussain. "To be a in a Test against him, you knew you were in a battle with Warne, verbally, physically, mentally and technically."

First Published: Dec 21, 2006 13:49 IST