When you think of Shane Warne the cricketer, a dash of artistry, sprinkling of celebrity and his Test bowling supremacy all spring to mind.
But while the 49-year-old Australian reinvented the art of leg-spin bowling, his life has also been laden with “guilt” and “regret” over the pain his colourful personal life caused his family.
In an interview with former England captain Michael Vaughan on BBC Radio 5 live, Warne opened up on “hurting his children”, the delivery that changed his life and his status as a celebrity.
‘I regret hurting my children’
It has been 25 years since the bleach blond 23-year-old from Victoria announced himself in England with his first delivery in an Ashes series which became known as the ‘ball of the century’.
But while Warne’s cricketing exploits have been well reported, a string of stories about his personal life have also attracted front page headlines, to the dismay of those closest to him.
And he admits that the nature of his split from ex-wife Simone (Callahan) in 2010, to pursue a relationship with British actress Elizabeth Hurley was particularly distressing to his children.
“I regret hurting my children,” he said while talking about his book ‘No Spin’.
“I’m embarrassed and hurt that I let them down as their father and as a husband to Simone [Callahan] I wasn’t very good.
“The whole book is fact. I do [love sex]. It’s true. If I didn’t love sex that much I probably wouldn’t have got myself in half the trouble I have.
“I’ve enjoyed being a father, I love being a father and I think I’m a good father. The kids are my number one priority I’ve shown them that. They’ve said some wonderful things in the book and I didn’t sit with them when they did that.
“They were asked, ‘tell me what you think about your dad?’ And they were brutally honest. They don’t pull any punches. I’ve had to live with that. Live with that guilt that I let my children down and it’s led in a way to a great relationship now because we talk about so much stuff.
“Any time we have an issue we have a thing where we say, ‘assume the position’ and we all sit and say, ‘right, it’s my turn to speak’ and we all listen. They ask me any questions they like and I have to answer them truthfully.”
‘I prefer the quiet life’
One of Wisden’s five cricketers of the 20th century, Warne remains the second-highest Test wicket-taker of all time with 708 from 145 Tests.
And despite it being 11 years since his Test retirement and five since he finished playing, the star appeal remains undimmed.
While that is largely due to his work in the media and appearances on shows like ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here’ he insists that he is far from comfortable with the celebrity tag.
“The real me is preferring to be on the couch with my kids, in tracksuit pants,” he said.
“The other stuff is a bit of fun but I much prefer the quiet life. But it’s about balance. Too much couch time and chilling and you crave a bit of social stuff and too much social stuff and you crave being at home.
“I value loyalty. Loyalty is one of the most important things in my life. If you’ve got me as a mate I’ll be loyal to you for the rest of my life no matter what and I expect the same in return.
“I’m probably too quick to judge people, that if they do the wrong thing by me, I burn them that’s it and I cut them off. It’s probably a bad trait but I just value loyalty so strongly.”
‘The fluke that changed my life’
Warne’s first taste of England had come during the summer of 1989, turning out for the now disbanded club cricket side Bristol Imperial CC.
On his return with Australia in the summer of 1993 for the Ashes, he asked fellow bowler Merv Hughes what was so special about the series.
“He said, ‘it’s the best, there’s no air travel so you sit around on a bus, get the guitar out, drink and have fun. There are still rest days in Test cricket. We’re sponsored by a beer company and England aren’t very good’.”
Unlike Hughes, Warne was a relative unknown with just 11 Tests and 31 wickets to his name.
However, all that changed with his first delivery to Mike Gatting at Old Trafford, a ball that turned at 90 degrees to clip the England batsman’s off stump in the first Test, which Australia went on to win by 179 runs.
“It was the perfect leg break,” Warne said.
“To do it first ball in an Ashes series, I look back and say, ‘yes’ it was a fluke but I think it was meant to be. It changed my life. I was 23 and I didn’t know how to cope with the attention off the field. I’d walk out of the hotel with the whole team and there’d be 20 photographers taking pictures of me.
“I remember going to Bristol and every kid had zinc cream on trying to bowl leg breaks. I was blown away.
“We’d go for a beer after play and there’d be 15 photographers taking my picture of me stuffing my face with chips.
“At that time I didn’t understand why they were doing it. I’m proud of how I handled it. Yes I made a few mistakes but there’s no school you go to which says if this happens this is what you do.”