Former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga paid tribute to Australian great Shane Warne on Wednesday, saying the spinner found a place in the hearts of the island’s fans as he came to the rescue of the country after the 2004 tsunami. paid tribute to the late Australian, who died of a suspected heart attack in March at the age of 52, ahead of the first Test against Australia in Galle – a venue where Warne took his 500th Test wicket. The wrist spinner won the South Asian country on a relief trip to Galle after the devastation of the Boxing Day tsunami.
“Everyone knows he has been a brilliant player, but especially after the tsunami, he came very close to Sri Lankan hearts,” Ranatunga told reporters.
“That was one of the reasons everyone was devastated when we heard the news.”
Warne helped raise more than $1 million to rebuild the Galle International Stadium after it was devastated by the tsunami, which killed more than 200,000 people worldwide – 31,000 of them in Sri Lanka.
Ranatunga, who had many encounters with Warne on the pitch, said the Australian was “a great player and a tough competitor”.
The left-handed batsman, one of Sri Lanka’s biggest cricketing stars, led the team to the 1996 50-over World Cup title when they defeated Australia by seven wickets in Lahore.
Ranatunga said he and his team learned the art of sledding from the Australians and gave it back to them in full.
“If you travel to Australia they would be very heavy so we learned from them,” said the 58-year-old. “Unfortunately for Australia I used that in the 1996 World Cup final.”
Ranatunga rated Warne as the greatest cricket ball spinner among leg spinners of his day, including India’s Anil Kumble and Pakistan’s Mushtaq Ahmed.
Warne signed his illustrious career with 708 Test wickets, second only to Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan’s 800.
“They enjoyed their success when they played against each other,” Ranatunga said of the rivalry between the two spider legends.
“Knowing Murali I think he preferred to take one more wicket than Shane and I’m sure it would have been the same (with Shane). I was able to get the best out of Murali when we played against Australia.”
Other former Sri Lankan cricket stars including Aravinda de Silva, Muralitharan and Romesh Kaluwitharana also came to Galle to attend Warne’s tribute.
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