ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: David Warner’s second chance with Australia in World Cup squad
ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: Warner 2.0 is no more confrontational. In seven IPL matches, all his aggression has been channelled through batting.Updated: Apr 17, 2019 12:13 IST
David Warner was all about explosive batting and looking for an excuse to get in the ear of the opponent -- forever spoiling for confrontation. Australian cricket’s bad boy though is a chastened man a year after the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa almost completely destroyed his international career.
The opener, having just ended a yearlong ban and worked to ensure that the focus stayed firmly on his batting form than boorish behaviour, is back in the Australia mix after being named in the World Cup squad on Monday alongwith the other fallen hero Steve Smith.
Warner 2.0 is no more confrontational. In seven IPL matches, all his aggression has been channelled through batting. The left-handed batsman was told to prove his form in IPL, and he has done that in style. The Sunrisers Hyderabad player has followed his century against Royal Challengers Bangalore with four half-centuries. Celebrations have been largely muted, though Warner did produce the celebratory leap on reaching the century.
He has fulfilled responsibilities without any fuss. He helped Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the stand-in skipper, and then Kane Williamson with field placements when the Kiwi took over on Sunday. The Aussie was after all the skipper when Sunrisers won the title in 2016.
Even his appeals have been tame. Against Mumbai Indians, when keeper Jonny Bairstow, while effecting the run out of Ishan Kishan, exuberantly uprooted the stumps, Warner at slip calmed him down.
The fans at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium adore him. The Aussie player gets the loudest cheer every time he takes the field.
Only the thing Warner wants to focus is his performance. “I’m feeling great; I’m hitting the ball well. My job is to go out there and score runs. The 12 months I have been away from cricket (have) kept me fresh,” Warner said on Sunday, after the 39-run defeat against Delhi Capitals.
Teammates and support staff believe Warner is at his best.
“He knows that he is playing (with) the same attitude, with extra fire. It is always good to have him in the team,” said Bhuvneshwar.
Coach Tom Moody feels his compatriot is at peace with himself. “He has come back full of enthusiasm, determination and with a lot to prove. That thirst (for success) certainly hasn’t been withdrawn by any means,” Moody said in a recent interview.
Australia coach Justin Langer was happy when Warner and Smith met the squad in Dubai for a brief integration session. “It’s like two brothers coming back home,” Langer said.
Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith though is still skeptical. “Where David has been throughout his career is that he’s pissed a lot of people off. He’s just that type of guy. It’s when he starts to get bigger than everybody else that probably the management needs to be ready for. Guys like Langer and whoever is captaining the side going forward need to ensure they stay on top of that and manage that space and that ego well,” he told Australian radio a week ago.
Smith’s doubts reflect Warner’s past record. He has had numerous confrontations, on and off the field. The punch he threw at Joe Root in a bar in England led to his suspension from the 2013 Champions Trophy and two Ashes Tests. Just before the ball-tampering scandal, he had an altercation with South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock in the Durban Test.
The ball-tampering saga and the anger in Australia left many doubtful if Warner and Smith will be back. Even he wasn’t sure until a few months ago if he would return to the Australian fold.
In his first media interaction in March last year, after the scandal broke, a contrite Warner confessed he may never get to play for the national team. “In the back of my mind, I suppose there is a tiny ray of hope that I may one day be given the privilege of playing for my country again, but I am resigned that that may never happen. But in the coming weeks and months I’m going to look at how this has happened and who I am as a man. To be honest, I’m not sure right now how I’ll do this. I will seek advice and expertise to help me make serious changes.”
Time away from the glare of international cricket was spent with the family and playing club cricket and T20 leagues in Canada, the Caribbean and Bangladesh. He was also at the Australia nets in Sydney before the Test series against India.
Warner has already piled up 400 runs in seven IPL matches this season. His best -- 848 runs in 17 games – set in 2016 is not out of grasp.
The jury is out on whether Warner is reformed; letting his bat alone talk should help convince doubters.
First Published: Apr 16, 2019 09:16 IST