(Reuters) – India batting great Sunil Gavaskar has spoken at his shock at the death of Shane Warne but does not think the Australian tweaker was the greatest spinner of all time.
Speaking on a show on the India Today television channel, Gavaskar said Warne’s death at the age of 52 on Friday due to a suspected heart attack in Koh Samui, Thailand had left him speechless.
Warne’s death followed that of fellow Australian great, wicketkeeper Rod Marsh, at the age of 74.
“Within the space of 24 hours the cricket world has lost two giants of the game, not just Australian cricket but the cricket world. Rodney Marsh and then Shane Warne. This is unbelievable. Hard to come to grips with,” Gavaskar said.
“Warne mastered a craft which is so difficult… wrist spin. To pick 700-plus wickets like he did in test cricket, hundreds more in one-day cricket tells you how good a bowler he was.
“Finger spin is a lot easier, you have more control over what you want to bowl but leg spin or wrist spin is tough. For him to have bowled the way he did, the way he seemed to create magic… at will was the reason he was revered all over the cricketing world.”
Gavaskar said he did not consider Warne, who took 708 test wickets to sit behind Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan (800) in the overall list, as the greatest spinner of all time.
“For me, the Indian spinners and Muralitharan were certainly better than Warne. Because look at Warne’s record against India. It was pretty ordinary against India,” Gavaskar said.
“Because he didn’t have much success against Indian players, who are very good players of spin bowling, I don’t think I would call him the greatest. Muralitharan with the success that he had against India would rank over him in my book.”
The timing of Gavaskar’s comments upset some of Warne’s legion of Indian fans, particularly his suggestion that the Australian’s lifestyle had contributed to his early death.
“He was always looking to live life fully, king size as they call it and he did that and maybe because he lived life in such a manner is perhaps the reason why his heart couldn’t take it and he passed away so soon,” Gavaskar said.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Michael Perry)