David Warner: From banishment to top of the world
- The Australia opener was dubbed a provoked bear by skipper Aaron Finch after powering the team to the T20 World Cup triumph in Dubai on Sunday
Like a good captain, Aaron Finch knew it—or at least he claims he did—David Warner would end the World Cup as player of the tournament.
A few months back—Finch said at the press conference after the Cup was won—he had called coach Justin Langer to tell him “don’t worry about Davy…he’ll be man of the tournament…”
"I can't believe people wrote him off,” Finch added. “It was like poking the bear."
Poking a bear indeed. What Finch was referring to was Warner’s tribulations with his IPL team Sunrisers Hyderabad, where, this season, he was removed from captaincy, then dropped from the team, and finally, during the UAE leg of the tournament last month, told to stay back in his hotel room instead of joining them in the dugout.
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If Sunrisers Hyderabad were to be believed—and with Trevor Bayliss, Tom Moody, VVS Laxman and Muttiah Muralitharan on their coaching roster there’s not much reason to doubt them—then Warner, 35, was a spent force.
It did not look good for the opener, or for Australia with the World Cup just a few weeks away at the same venue.
Except Warner did not buy it.
"I actually think people talking about my form is quite funny," he told reporters at that time. “I laugh at the matter because at the end of the day I’ve played hardly any cricket.”
He was dropped from the team after just two matches in UAE and he had a sneaking feeling that something else was up when he was told not to come to the ground.
"Not being able to go there, run drinks and be around was when it sort of hit home that it could be personal, and I'm still yet to get those answers," he said later.
And then he brushed it all off. The bear had been poked and the bear was now ready to fight back. That fight took Australia all the way to their first men’s World T20 title.
“Out of form, too old and slow…congratulations!” tweeted Warner’s wife Candice when Australia lifted the trophy, a little wink at Hyderabad.
With 289 runs in the World Cup at a strike rate of 146.70, averaging 48, he was the biggest impact batter in the top order, the second leading run-scorer, one to strike the most 4s and fourth most 6s. Knocks of 65 (42) against Sri Lanka, 89 (56) against West Indies, 49 (30) in the semis and 53 (38) in the final were all central to Australia’s wins.
En route, he stirred up yet another “spirit of cricket” controversy when he hit a six on a ball that slipped out of the bowler’s hands and bounced twice before reaching him in the semi final (perfectly legal). In the same match, he also walked after a caught-behind appeal, even though replays showed that he had clearly not made contact with the ball.
With Warner around, there’s always something happening, always action.
“He’s a fighter. When he’s got his back against the wall, that’s when you get the very very best of David Warner,” Finch said.
We’ve seen it before of course.
Warner and then captain Steve Smith were singled out in 2018 as the masterminds of the “sandpapergate” incident. Soon after, back in Australia and with his wife standing by, Warner had chocked on tears as he faced the press for a long and hard apology—“I’m gonna look at who I am as a man”. He had thought himself then that his career had ended.
“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’m resigned to the fact that that may never happen…”
But it did, and when Warner came back from his year-long ban, he promptly went on a run spree, amassing 647 runs at the 2019 ODI World Cup, just one short of the tournament’s highest run getter, Rohit Sharma.
The IPL hurt may be more recent, but have the wounds of the Cape Town Test aftermath healed for the Warners? His wife did say that the Australian opener would write a tell-all book one day. That day may have been pushed back under the weight of his powerful batting blade.
“For me it was about going back to basics, getting on hard synthetic wickets to train against a volume of balls. I managed to do that,” Warner said about his preparations for the T20 World Cup.
That was the route to finding touch. Once he began feeling the ball in the middle of his blade, Warner along with Mitch Marsh became the main men to take on spin in the middle overs—leg spin, Australia’s bugbear by Finch’s own admission. On the tournament’s day of reckoning, the New Zealand spinners’ returns were 6-63-0. Warner’s domineering presence at the crease was a primary reason why New Zealand’s key strength fell apart in the final.
Warner may have been the batter-in-chief for Australia in UAE, but he was more subdued than his teammates in celebrations. He may have reserved it for a family reunion. Watch out for the Warner’s breaking into a synchronised jig on their popular Instagram handle soon.
And yes, watch out for the IPL auction.
The bear is back.