Thai authorities were preparing an autopsy on Sunday on the body of Australian cricket superstar Shane Warne, who died of a suspected heart attack, before flying him home where he will be given a state funeral. Police said no malicious intent was suspected in the 52-year-old’s death after he failed to respond at a luxury villa on the Thai holiday island of Koh Samui late Friday. The unexpected passing of the ‘king’ of spider sparked a worldwide outburst of grief from prime ministers, rock stars and fellow players, a recognition that the Melbourne native transcended his sport.
On Sunday, Warne’s three children reacted to his death, with friend and manager James Erskine saying they were “in complete shock”.
“Jackson [Warne’s eldest son] said only, ‘We expect him to walk through the door. This is like a bad dream,” Erskine told Australia’s Channel Nine.
The player, one of the greatest Test cricketers of all time, was not accosted at a resort villa in Samujana on Friday after failing to meet friends.
Warne was taken to Thai International Hospital Samui at approximately 6:00 PM (1100 GMT), but his management said he “could not be resuscitated” despite medical efforts.
Officials on the holiday island said “no malice was suspected” on Saturday after an initial investigation and confirmed that Warne’s body would be transported to Surat Thani for an autopsy.
Early Sunday morning, AFP reporters saw a body being placed in an ambulance from the morgue where Warne’s body had been overnight.
Family members had “already consulted with the Australian embassy so that they will return his body to Australia immediately after the autopsy is completed,” local police chief Yutthana Sirisombat said.
Outside the Koh Samui Police Station, Andrew Neophitou, a close friend of Warne’s, said: “We really want to bring Shane home, that’s all.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison led a tribute to one of the country’s “best characters” on Saturday, announcing that Warne would be given a full state funeral.
Over the weekend, fans gathered at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to lay flowers and some unusual offerings – including cigarettes, beer and meat pie – to commemorate the famous hard-charging athlete.
Credited for reviving the art of leg spin, Warne was part of a dominant Australian test team in the 1990s and 2000s, helping his country win the 1999 limited-overs World Cup.
His 708 Test wickets have been surpassed only by fellow spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.
Warne came on the scene as a brash young player with a head of blond hair and became known almost as much for his colorful life away from cricket as for his exploits on the pitch.
Warne was the first bowler to take 700 Test wickets using an assortment of leg breaks, googlies, flippers and his own zooters, Warne retired from Australian service in 2007 after a 5-0 series win at home against arch-rivals England.
Warne played a total of 145 Tests over a 15-year career, taking 708 wickets, and was also a useful lower order batsman, with a highest Test score of 99.
He was a “hero” to the current generation of cricketers, said Australian captain Pat Cummins.
“The loss that we are all trying to deal with is enormous,” he said.
Following his international retirement, Warne continued to shine on the Twenty20 franchise circuit, appearing for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League and his hometown Melbourne Stars in Australia’s Big Bash League.
He later became a highly regarded television commentator and pundit, known for his candid opinions, and was involved in coaching, working individually with contemporary leg spinners.
Warne was divorced from his wife Simone Callahan, with whom he had three children.
His former fiancé, actress Elizabeth Hurley, said on Instagram that “the sun has disappeared behind a cloud forever,” adding: “RIP my beloved Lionheart.”
Cricketers mourned his passing, as India hit out the amazing Sachin Tendulkar tweet about his ex-rival: “Shocked, stunned and miserable… Will miss you Warnie. There was never a dull moment with you around.”
Pakistani leader and ex-player Imran Khan paid his respects to “a bowling genius”, while former Australian team-mate Adam Gilchrist said he was “stunned”.
Tributes also came outside the sports world, from Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, singer Ed Sheeran, to actors Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman.
Topics mentioned in this article