The world of cricket is coming to terms with the loss of one of its greatest figures following the death of Shane Warne at the age of 52.
Warne took 708 Test wickets, the second-highest ever, in 145 matches across an illustrious 15-year international career.
The charismatic, combative bowler also claimed 293 wickets in one-day internationals and helped Australia win the World Cup in 1999.
Glenn McGrath, with whom Warne formed a formidable strike partnership for their country, paid a warm tribute to his friend.
“Just absolutely devastated today,” he wrote on Instagram. “Warnie was larger than life. I thought nothing could ever happen to him. He lived more in his life than most people would live in 20.
“He was the ultimate competitor. He thought the game was never lost, that he could turn it around and bring us to victory, which he did so many times. I think he lived his life the same way. There seemed to be never a dull moment.
“He was a great mate and a loving father. He loved his kids so much and my thoughts are with Brooke, Jackson and Summer. My thoughts are also with Keith, Bridgette and Jason.
“Rest In Peace my good mate, there’ll never again be anyone like you.”
Current Australia Test captain Pat Cummins, on tour in Pakistan, said in a video posted on Cricket Australia’s Twitter: “Warnie was an all-time great, a once-in-a-century type of cricketer and his record will live on forever.
“We all grew up watching Warnie, idolising him, we all had posters on our wall, had his earrings. We loved so much his showmanship, his charisma, his tactics. He just willed himself and his team to win games for Australia.
“So many guys in this squad still hold him as a hero, their all-time favourite player. The loss we’re all trying to wrap our heads around is huge. The game was never the same after Warnie emerged and the game will never be the same after his passing. Rest in peace, King.”
With an instrumental Warne in their ranks, Australia won six Ashes series in a row and were the dominant force in cricket for more than a decade from the mid-1990s in both Tests and one-day internationals.
Adam Gilchrist was also a central part of the team and the wicketkeeper-batter, while reeling from the devastating news, reflected with pride that he and predecessor Ian Healy were stumpers for Warne.
He wrote on Twitter: “Numb. The highlight of my cricketing career was to keep wicket to Warnie.
“Best seat in the house to watch the maestro at work. Have often felt a tad selfish, that Heals and I pretty much exclusively are the only ones who had that thrill and pleasure at Test level. Rip Warnie.”
Named one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century, alongside Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Jack Hobbs and Sir Viv Richards, Warne came to prominence with a wickedly spinning leg-break to Mike Gatting in 1993.
The delivery was named ball of the century as Gatting was left confounded. It was no fluke as Warne’s array of leg-breaks, googlies, flippers and sliders bamboozled many accomplished batters in the years that followed.
“Without a doubt, he is number one ever,” Gatting told Sky Sports. “There has been a lot of great cricketers, great spinners and great leg-spinners, but Warnie will always be certainly from my point of view the number one.”
England’s 2005 Ashes winning captain Michael Vaughan said on Instagram: “It just doesn’t feel real to be talking about someone who once was an enemy on the pitch to one who became a great friend off it.”
And captain between 1999 and 2003, Nasser Hussain, said on Twitter that “it was an absolute privilege to share a cricket field and more recently a commentary box with the great man”.
Meanwhile, former Australia captain Ricky Ponting called Warne the “greatest bowler” he ever played with or against.
“Hard to put into words. I first met him when I was 15 at the Academy. He gave me my nickname,” Ponting tweeted.
“We were teammates for more than a decade, riding all the highs and lows together.”
Cricket Australia chair Dr Lachlan Henderson announced Australia’s men’s and women’s teams would wear black armbands and pause for a minute’s silence before their matches in Pakistan and New Zealand on Saturday.
Fans have placed tributes on the Shane Warne statue at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, while the premier of the Australian state of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, announced the venue’s Great Southern Stand will be renamed the SK Warne Stand as a “permanent tribute to an amazing Victorian”.
Andrews has also offered the Warne family a state funeral.
“I have offered a state funeral to his family so Victorians can pay tribute to his legacy and contribution to our state, community and country,” he said.