Melbourne: Newly-svelte Australian legspin legend Shane Warne joked that a hefty bronze statue of him unveiled at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday was a "lifelike" memento of his time in Test cricket.
"It's 300 kilos that statue, it's pretty lifelike for when I played," said Warne, who drastically slimmed down after he began dating his now-fiancee Liz Hurley.
"It's a great honour, it's a bit weird seeing yourself up there, but I'm very proud."
The statue depicts Warne in his pomp - with earring, dated hairstyle and paunch - and he joins 10 other Australian sporting greats, including cricketers Don Bradman and Dennis Lillee, who have been immortalised outside the MCG.
Warne, 42, reminisced about his best moments at the ground, including his breakthrough 7-52 to beat the West Indies in 1992-93, his hat-trick against England in 1994 and his 700th Test wicket in 2006.
Depicted in the statue bowling a leg break, Hurley and Warne's children were on hand to witness him unveiling the statue with the help of Mark Taylor, captain for much of the spinner's Test career.
Recalling how Warne brought a sense of fun and flair to the Australian team, Taylor said no matter how many runs the team had on the board, with him there they looked enough.
"When Warney came into the side in the early 1990s, the game was dominated by fast bowlers," Taylor recalled. "We had a guy who could, at the end of the game, make as big an impact as the West Indies fast bowlers could at the start. No matter how many runs we had on the board, with Shane Warne in the side, we could still make them enough to win the game."
Louis Lauman, the sculptor, said it was hard to put the new, slim, Big Bash version of Warnie out of his mind. He spent hours studying images of Warne in his classic bowling action before casting the legend in bronze.
"It was a challenge for me because Warnie is so fresh in everybody's memory and I guess everybody has their opinion of what it (the statue) should look like," Lauman said.
"You couldn't do it the way he is now. He is a different figure and has done a lot of work to get as trim as possible, probably to the point of being underweight," he said. "But I have tried to be as respectful as possible. It is a very striking pose."
It took six months for the sculptor to complete his creation, moulded carefully in his backyard studio after quite literally sizing Warne up earlier this year.
"I'm glad we sat for there for about four hours measuring between my nose and my ears, so thank you very much," Warne joked with sculptor Louis Laumen.
Rated one of the five best cricketers of the 20th century by cricket bible Wisden, Warne took a pioneering 708 Test wickets in a 145-Test career that made him the scourge of batsmen worldwide. He bowed out of professional cricket with the Indian Premier League's Rajasthan Royals in May, only to announce his comeback last month with the Melbourne Stars in Australia's Twenty20 Big Bash League.
Known as much for his off-field antics as his prodigious cricket talent, the formerly chubby smoker has always been sensitive about his weight. Warne recently shed 12 kilogrammes after swapping alcohol and fast food for water and health shakes.
The sculpture is the first to be commissioned by the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) as part of the Australia Post Avenue of Legends series, which will see a minimum of five statues placed in Yarra Park over the next five years.