UAE - Worshippers tend to be numb with shock when a hero dies. On Friday evening, the news of Shane Warne’s sudden demise left UAE opening batsman Chirag Suri lost for words.

It was as if a well-set batsman had his off-stump rattled by a sharp turner that pitched on the leg.

It was only over a year ago that Suri had shared the same stage with the iconic Australian leg-spinner during an Indian Premier League event in Dubai.

“I hosted a Rajasthan Royals event in Dubai when he was the chief guest. It was a great honour for me to be on the same stage with him,” Suri told Khaleej Times after finishing a practice session ahead of Saturday’s one-day international between UAE and Oman at the ICC Academy in Dubai.

“I just told him what I always wanted to tell him in person: ‘well-bowled Warnie!’ He just laughed. Well-bowled Warnie was something we grew up hearing in every Australia match during our childhood.”

For Suri, Warne’s greatest trait was not his famous ability to turn the ball viciously. But it was his sharp cricketing brain that stood out.

“Shane Warne was one of the finest cricket brains. He was not just a great spinner, his intelligence was incredible. It was as if he knew what the batsman was going to do,” Suri said.

“It’s an incredibly sad day for cricket. We have lost one of the greatest players ever.”

Shyam Bhatia, Dubai’s famous collector of cricket memorabilia, recalled the day Warne visited his cricket museum that nestles elegantly in the backyard of his Jumeirah residence.

“He bowled so many magical balls, so many magical spells. He has left us with so many magical memories. You know, when he visited my museum during the 2020 Indian Premier League, he spoke so beautifully on cricket,” Bhatia said.

“He was absolutely amazed by my collections in the museum. He even autographed all his books which are in our museum. I was planning to call him this year for our annual Shyam Bhatia Awards. But today’s news has just shattered me. I pray for his eternal peace.”

Ajay Sethi, Chairman of Channel 2 Group, ICC’s audio rights partners, said March 4, 2022, would be looked at as the darkest day in Australian cricket.

“It’s a very sad day, we lost two legends of cricket. First Rodney Marsh and then Shane Warne,” Sethi said.

“I had several close interactions with both of them. I have great memories of my association with Warne in the UK and Australia. I also met Rodney Marsh, when he was the ICC director in Dubai. So my deepest condolences to the families of both.”

Sethi said having Warne on his team of commentators for his radio station was one of the proudest moments of his life.

“Warne joined us as an expert commentator for our Channel 2 Group during the ICC Champions Trophy in London. He worked with us in Australia too,” the Dubai-based Indian businessman recalled.

“I remember during one World Cup match, he was desperately looking for tickets for his guests. I was sitting with Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and Clive Lloyd in the green room when he walked in, asking for tickets. Luckily, I had four tickets and I gave them to him. I will never forget the smile on his face.”

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