'He used to interact with everyone in the dressing room, he never showed any attitude to any cricketer -- whether big or small.'
Dinesh Salunkhe is in complete shock at the news of the passing away of his hero Shane Warne.
The Australian spin legend died aged 52 of a suspected heart attack in Thailand.
Salunkhe played under Warne's captaincy at Rajasthan Royals when it won the inaugural IPL title in 2008.
Warne had gone on record to state in 2008 that Salunkhe along with Ravindra Jadeja were the 'stars of the future' and even mentioned the Mumbai tweaker in his autobiography No Spin.
'Believe me, with the kind of talent Ravindra Jadeja and Dinesh Salunkhe have shown, they are going to be superstars in the near future,' Warne had said during the IPL in 2008.
Salunkhe is nearly in tears as he speaks to Harish Kotian/Rediff.com on the impact Warne had on his career and life, having kept in touch with regularly through the years.
I am totally shattered on hearing this news. I was very close to him at Rajasthan Royals.
I took up cricket because of Shane Warne. He was my idol. I consider myself very lucky that I got a chance to play with him at Rajasthan Royals.
We always dream of meeting our heroes, but I was so lucky that I played in the same team as him, I bowled alongside him, and I shared the dressing room with him.
In his autobiography No Spin, Warne had written a full page about me. So you can imagine the relationship we had.
I am really sad at the shocking news of his passing away, I don't know what to say.
He was a different kind of person, he never showed off his stardom, he was always down to earth.
I used to stay in touch with him regularly on WhatsApp. He was very caring, he used to ask about me and my family, and what I was doing currently.
We had chatted on WhatsApp around a month back, I still can't get over the fact that he is no more there.
I took up leg spin after watching his bowling. I was picked for the Rajasthan Royals through Cricket Star (a reality television show). I had hit two centuries in a local T20 tournament, after which I got a call from the Rajasthan Royals in 2008.
We had a small event before the IPL in 2008 where all the players had got together. I remember how Warne was seated in a room and he was talking to a few people.
I was just watching him from a distance. And as he was leaving, one official from Rajasthan Royals, who knew I was a big Shane Warne fan, introduced me to the legend.
The official told Warne that I had hit Monty Panesar for two huge sixes which went out of the ground. At that moment Warne stopped and he started talking to me, and he told me, 'I will see you at the ground', and after that our journey started.
I played in the IPL in 2008 under his captaincy and we became quite close during that time. He helped me a lot to improve my bowling and also gave me valuable lessons on various aspects of my life and my career.
He used to speak a lot to me and we developed a close bonding.
I remember that match when I got the wicket of Mahela Jayawardene (then with the Kings XI Punjab). Warne had planned that whenever Jayawardene comes out to bat, I will bring Dinesh to bowl at him. I was not aware of that plan.
When I went to congratulate Warne after he took the wicket of Kumar Sangakkara, he saw Jayawardene walking out and he told me, 'Dinesh, get ready to bowl from the other end.' And I got the wicket of Jayawardene in my first over, so that was the confidence he showed in me.
That move also showed that he was always one step ahead of the game.
That was one of the two biggest moments of my life, bowling in tandem with my hero Warne. My first big moment was the birth of my daughter and the second was bowling with Warne, these two moments will stay memorable all my life.
I spent the next five years at Rajasthan Royals and I was part of every camp, every practice session, so we used to speak a lot.
I observed that Warne was a different person in the dressing room and very different in the field of play.
On the ground, he was very professional, he always had his plans in place and he was in control of things. In the dressing room, he was very caring and he used to enjoy his time with his team-mates.
He never showed that he was a big cricketer, he used to interact with everyone in the dressing room, he never showed any attitude to any cricketer -- whether big or small.
His captaincy was largely responsible for Rajasthan Royals winning the IPL, he led from the front. You would say he was a genius.
I don't know how to react to this news, I feel like I have someone very close has left me, it is just unbelievable.