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Galle (Sri Lanka) (AFP) – Former Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga paid tribute to Australian great Shane Warne on Wednesday, saying the spinner had found a place in the hearts of fans in the island nation for coming to the aid of the country after the 2004 tsunami.
Sri Lanka paid tribute to the late Australian, who died aged 52 of a suspected heart attack in March, ahead of the first Test against Australia at Galle – a venue where Warne won his 500th Test wicket.
The wrist band conquered the South Asian country during a relief tour in Galle after the devastation of the Boxing Day tsunami.
“Everyone knows he was a brilliant player, but especially after the tsunami he became very close to the hearts of Sri Lankans,” Ranatunga told reporters.
“That’s one of the reasons everyone was upset when we heard the news.”
Warne helped raise more than $1 million to rebuild Galle International Stadium after it was destroyed by the tsunami, which killed more than 200,000 people worldwide, including 31,000 in Sri Lanka.
Ranatunga, who had many clashes on the pitch with Warne, said the Australian was “a wonderful player and a tough competitor”.
The left-handed batsman, one of Sri Lanka’s biggest cricket stars, led the team to the 1996 World Cup title at age 50 by beating Australia by seven wickets in Lahore.
Ranatunga said he and his team learned the art of luge from Australians and gave it back to them fully.
“When you travel to Australia they would be very difficult so we learned from them,” the 58-year-old said. “Unfortunately for Australia, I used this in the 1996 World Cup final.”
Ranatunga ranked Warne as the greatest cricket ball turner among leg spinners of his time, including Indian Anil Kumble and Mushtaq Ahmed of Pakistan.
Warne capped off his illustrious career with 708 Test wickets, just behind 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 spin legends.
“Knowing Murali, I think he preferred to take one more wicket than Shane and I’m sure it could have been the same (with Shane). I could get the most out of Murali when we were playing against Australia.”
Other former Sri Lankan cricket stars including Aravinda de Silva, Muralitharan and Romesh Kaluwitharana also came to Galle to watch the Warne tribute.
© 2022 AFP