Shane Warne, Test cricket's most successful bowler and one of the most controversial players off the field, will retire from the international stage next month, bringing the curtains down on a glittering 15-year career which began against India.
The talismanic leg-spinner, who mesmerised batsmen the world over but did not enjoy a high success rate against the Indians, formally announced his decision to quit Test cricket at a press conference in Melbourne today.
"I just know it's my time. I would like to go out on top. I would like to go out on my terms...," an emotional Warne, regarded as one of the greatest spinners in the history of the game, said.
"It's been unbelievable -- my journey and my ride in international cricket has been phenomenal."
Warne, who has 699 wickets from 143 Tests, is expected to reach the 700-milestone when he bids farewell to an army of hometown Melbourne fans at the fourth Ashes Test to be held early next week. The Sydney Test (Jan 2-6) will be the swansong to his illustrious Test career.
Warne, however, said that he would continue to play for English county side Hampshire for the remaining two years of his contract.
The charismatic Australian said it was time to go after playing a pivotal role in regaining the Ashes with an unassailable 3-0 lead last week after a shock loss in England last year.
"I'm a very happy man. I probably would have retired after the 2005 Ashes had we won, but that was not to be. There was unfinished business."
"For me, it was a mission to get that urn back," Warne said.
"My time is now. I don't think I could have written the script any better," the 37-year-old spin wizard said.
Warne said he had discussed his decision to retire with captain Ricky Ponting after the Perth Test. He said that he wanted to leave the game at the height of powers and go "on my terms". As for his future, he said he would consider it over some "quiet beers and a few smokes".
"I don't know what the future holds ... There are a lot of things I would like to do. I've got two Test matches to play, then I will sit back."
Warne, the only current player to be included in Wisden's top five cricketers of the 20th century, also said that when he told his children of his plans, they became concerned that his departure from the game included their games of backyard cricket and he had to assure them otherwise.
Warne said this month's stunning fifth-day comeback victory over England in the second Test at Adelaide helped him leave cricket while on the top of his game.
"Adelaide did that -- I think that is the best Test match I've ever played in," he said.
"I've given everything I possibly could to the cause, and that was winning. Cricket to me is my hobby, my passion and I love doing it. Yeah, I'll probably miss it... I've missed one-day internationals for the last four years."
Warne said he was honoured to have played in a champion Australian side and felt he had contributed in some way to make the game more watchable.
"I sit here today (amidst) every single trophy that's available in international cricket ... And I like to think that I've played my part in helping those trophies get into Cricket Australia," the leg-spinner said.
"People have turned up, I like to think that I've given them entertainment and I've tried my guts out every single time. As a whole, I think I've made cricket more fun," he said.
"I don't think I could have given any more to Australian cricket. I've given everything to the game."
To end his career at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the venue for his Test debut in 1991-92, would be a great feeling, Warne said.
"To have an opportunity to walk off in Sydney where it all began a long time ago I think is a great opportunity and something to celebrate," he said.
Warne captured international limelight for the first time in 1993, when he produced what has been acclaimed as the "Ball of the Century" to bowl England's Mike Gatting with his first ever Ashes delivery.
Since then, Warne has been the world's premier bowler. He has held the record for the highest number of Test wickets since October 2004. In August 2005, he became the first man to reach 600 Test wickets.
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