March 4, 2022 will probably go down in memory as one of the most difficult evenings for us as a franchise in our 14-year history, as the tragic news started doing the rounds. One of the greatest cricketers to have ever graced the game, Shane Warne passed away shockingly at the age of 52. For us at the Royals, this is a personal and monumental loss, one that has stunned all of us here into silence. 

As a flurry of tributes started pouring in from all corners of the cricketing community, one could see why Warne’s departure feels like heartbreak. He touched innumerable lives, inspired generations of cricketers to take up spin bowling, made life-long friendships even with his toughest rivals on the field, and was a vocal supporter of Test and T20 cricket in equal measure. It always felt like he’d be around longer - sharing his pearls of wisdom on air, with those around him watching, soaking up every bit of his experience. Every person who knew him now has a story to tell - of his warmth, his love for family and friends, his passion for cricket, and his quest to give back to the game he so dearly loved. 

Warnie was generous and kind, like the one time he gave us one of his prized possessions to display in our academy museum in Nagpur - the shoes that he wore when he bagged his 400th Test wicket. In 2010, he won the Man-of-the-Match award for delivering a match-winning spell against the Deccan Chargers. Almost immediately after the match, he handed us the trophy to be placed at our academy. A proper team man, he’d make everyone around him feel comfortable, and treated every member of the franchise - from the owner to the new intern - with respect.

Warne was the epitome of craftsmanship, someone who reinvented the dying art of leg spin and gave it a respectful place in cricket’s folklore. And he did it in style, a flair of his own that’d be hard to replicate for years to come. It was his aura that made even his fiercest critics sit up and take notice, applaud him while he bamboozled batsmen for fun. There’s a little incident from IPL 2018, when Warnie was sitting down behind the nets during a session, and Ish Sodhi asked him to come have a little bowl. He duly obliged, and got Jos Buttler out first ball. He wasn’t just generational, he was a once-in-a-century cricketer.