MELBOURNE: Shane Warne’s son said there is no better place to bid farewell to his late father than the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where more than 50,000 people are to attend a state memorial service Wednesday featuring stars such as Elton John and Ed Sheeran.
The legendary cricketer died at a luxury resort in Thailand this month from a suspected heart attack, aged 52, eliciting shock and grief around the world from his millions of fans as well as prime ministers, rock stars and fellow players.
The larger-than-life “king of spin” will be honoured in a state service that will be beamed live to cricket grounds around the country and watched by millions in Australia and around the world.
More than 50,000 free tickets have been snapped up for the two-hour service, which is due to start at 7:00pm (0800 GMT) after a minute’s silence.
His son, Jackson, said there was “no other better place in the whole world” to hold the memorial than the MCG where Warne made so many memories, including a hat-trick in an Ashes Test against England and taking his 700th Test wicket.
“It’s very special for a lot of us, especially our family,” he told Australian media.
“We’ve been lucky enough to come here (to the MCG) our whole lives and watch him play and put lots of hard work in on this very groundi.
“Dad always loved a crowd, putting on a performance … I think, sad day as it is, with more people here it won’t be as sad,” he added.
Those attending have been urged to wear their cricket kit.
“This is going to be one of the great events in the history of the city in this country in many ways, a tribute to a champion,” said television presenter, former Australian Rules football player and friend of Warne Eddie McGuire, who will host the event.
A stand at the famous MCG is to be named after Warne, who in the eyes of many is second only to batsman Don Bradman in Australia’s long list of sporting greats.
A statue of Warne already stands outside the venue.
Warne’s father Keith said he had been touched by so many people offering their support and he was grateful that his son’s life could be celebrated on such a big stage.
“It’s what he would’ve wanted, to make sure everybody who can be involved is involved and we’ve been very fortunate to have a state funeral to allow us to do that,” he said.
Music stars Elton John, Chris Martin, Robbie Williams and Sheeran will sing “dedicated songs” to Warne, said McGuire. They are expected to appear by video link, as are Hollywood stars Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman.
Cricketing greats such as Brian Lara, Ian Botham and Wasim Akram will be among an array of sports stars joining the service, he added.
Warne’s former partner, the British actress Liz Hurley, is not expected to attend but will reportedly feature in the service.
Credited with reviving the art of leg-spin, Warne took 708 Test wickets as part of a dominant Australian team in the 1990s and 2000s before becoming a respected commentator.
Before the state service in his memory, Warne’s family, friends and teammates mourned him at a private funeral on March 20 at St Kilda Football Club, an Australian Rules team he supported all his life.