|The cricket world will be a less colourful place without Warnie [GALLO/GETTY]
World cricket bade farewell to the great showman Shane Warne on Friday, after the Australian great brought the curtain down on his stellar career after two decades.
Warne ended his career in style with a winning appearance in the Indian Premier League, leading the Rajasthan Royals to victory over the Mumbai Indians.
He will be remembered as one of the greatest players of all time, and in the eyes of many second
only to legendary batsman Don Bradman in Australian cricket.
Indian master Sachin Tendulkar paid tribute to the Australian great at the IPL clash.
"He (Warne) is a true champion, a wonderful friend. I have not been privileged to play with him in the same team, but it's been a real treat to play against him," said Tendulkar.
"Congrats Warne for a wonderful career and I wish him all the luck for his future."
The 41-year-old Warne has likened his life to a soap opera but it would take a brave script-writer to summon up a character who divided an audience as much as Warne has over the last two decades.
Born: September 13 1969 in Melbourne
Age: 41 years
Major teams: Australia, Victoria, Rajasthan Royals, Hampshire
Bowling style: Right-arm leg-break
Test debut: v India, Sydney, January 1992
Last Test: v England, Sydney, January 2007
Test record: 145 matches, 708 wickets, 25.42 average
One-day record: 194 matches, 293 wickets, 25.74 average
In 2000 selected as one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century, the
only specialist bowler selected in the quintet
Leading wicket-taker in Tests before being overtaken by Muttiah
Muralitharan of Sri Lanka
Only second bowler after Muralitharan to take combined 1,000 wickets in
Tests and ODIs
Five-wicket hauls in a Test innings: 37
Ten-wicket hauls in a Test: 10
Best Test bowling: 8-71 v England, Brisbane, November 1994
Test hat-tricks: (1) v England, Melbourne, December 1994
Highest Test score: 99 v New Zealand, Perth, November 2001
Test catches: 125
Test man-of-the-match awards: 17
Test wickets in a calendar year: 96-record (2005), 72 (1993), 70 (2004),
68 (1997), 67 (2002)
Single-handedly reviving the art of leg-spin bowling, the Victorian was a standout even in one of the most successful cricket teams of all time, bestriding the game like a bleach-blond colossus and claiming 708 Test wickets.
Set against that was the doping ban, the marital infidelities, the loss of the Australian vice-captaincy for steamy texts sent to an Englishwoman, the dangerous liaisons with a bookmaker and the frequent clashes with officialdom.
Those clashes, which his defenders cited as evidence of his willingness to speak his mind regardless of the consequences, continued right until the end and he was fined $50,000 for criticising an Indian Premier League official only last week.
His capacity for getting into trouble was evident from his very earliest days in the game but so was his extraordinary ability to control a cricket ball.
"Ball of the century"
On his Test debut in 1992 he posted inauspicious figures of 1-150 but he then knuckled down under his mentor Terry Jenner and 18 months later caught the cricketing world's attention with the "ball of the century" against England.
The delivery, Warne's first in an Ashes Test, turned dramatically to bamboozle England's captain Mike Gatting and herald the arrival of a cricketing superstar.
Warne retired from international cricket in 2007 after resurrecting the art of leg-spin and becoming the first player to take 700 Test wickets.
In between came the Man of the Match award in the 1999 World Cup final, the accolade of being one of Wisden's five best players of the 20th century, an astonishing 96 Test wickets in 2005, 293 one-day wickets and more than 3,000 Test runs.
It was, however, as the best spin bowler - some would say the best bowler - of all time that he will be remembered and he brought words like slider, wrong'un and flipper back into the vernacular.
His loss to Australian cricket was never more evident than in England's Ashes triumph at the turn of this year, when calls for his return from international retirement reached fever pitch before he dampened them down.
Along the way, the cigarette-puffing, beer-swilling "Warnie" survived drug and bookmaking scandals and pursued a love life which is widely thought to have cost him the Australian captaincy.
His retirement is expected to include more sports commentating for television, commercial work, charity, and possibly coaching.