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. A larger-than-life character, he added colour to the gentleman’s game with his flamboyant personality. He made the biggest stages his own, was unafraid to bowl his heart out, and thrived in adversity. In an era of fast bowling domination, Warne stood out like a messiah for the art of spin.Warne represented Australia in 339 internationals, picking a record 1001 wickets and scoring 4,172 runs. His numbers were extraordinary, yet they don’t do enough justice to the enigma that he was on the field. The way he set it all up, plotting his every move, almost as if writing the script of his own fairytale. Those who watched him bowl, whether at the ground or on television, felt the build-up and waited with bated breath for what was coming next.It was like watching a master of wizardry silently waving his wand. His teammates cheered him on as batters watched in bewilderment, pretending that they hadn’t already lost that battle in the mind. Leg breaks, googlies, flippers, the wrong ‘un, the straighter ones, and an accuracy that was unmatched - he had a bag full of tricks and he knew exactly when to use them. Warne was appreciative of those who did get the better of him, and it was that very pursuit of one-upmanship that kept his ultra-competitive streak alive.In 1993, England’s Mike Gatting became his most famous victim. A delivery that turned from well outside leg stump to clip the top of off stump, leaving Gatting stunned to the core. As unbelievable as it may sound, it was Warne’s first ball in an Ashes series, and his first ever in England. It was eventually coined as the ‘Ball of the Century’, one that will remain fresh in our minds until time immemorial. Warnie holds a special place in the hearts of us Royals in more ways than one. He was our first Royal, first captain and coach - a true leader who has left an incomparable legacy. Marshaling a bunch of experienced internationals and unknown Indian faces, he famously brought that Class of 2008 together to move in one single direction - that of winning the first ever IPL. But it wasn’t just about winning the title. It was his incredible passion for unearthing new talent, giving youngsters the confidence and opportunities to express themselves freely and flourish on the grand stage - that elevated him as one of those who built the IPL into what it is today. His foresight was impeccable, with an uncanny eye for spotting greatness early on, as he did with Ravindra Jadeja back in 2008. It was he who first referred to him as a ‘rockstar’, and as time passed, the world could see why. Today, the cricketing fraternity is poorer without Warne’s presence. As fans, spectators and even critics, we lived every moment of his rich career with him. We watched him sway us first as a cricketer, and later as a broadcaster and commentator. He kept striving for the greater good of cricket, continuously seeking ways to make the sport better. At the same time, he knew how to live life to the fullest - at the Royals he could famously eat 12 scoops of ice-cream at the buffet in one go, gorge on pizza topped up generously with ketchup, and then smash out 20 press-ups without batting an eyelid! A champion, a leader, a forever Royal - Warnie remains fondly in our memories. With so much cricket still left in him, we only wish he hadn’t left us so soon. It’s something that will take a long time to sink in, to accept, to process. But till then, we will try to celebrate Shane Warne the cricketer, and Shane Warne the man in every way possible. Thank you for enriching the sport, and enriching us with your magic. Go well, King!