Dave Warner’s greatest contribution to Australian cricket in 2013 was landing a right hook to Joe Root’s head at a Birmingham bar, but even that couldn’t derail the Poms.
Now, Warner has been gifted the opportunity to regain respect and add another needed storyline to the remaining eight Ashes test matches. Thanks to an innings of 193 on a highway and Australia’s overall incompetence, Warner is back. He’s not quite Australia’s saving grace but he is back from touring Birmingham’s pubs and exploring social media- so perhaps he can at least provide Boof with a nice selection of boutique beers.
In many ways, Warner is the problem and the solution to Australian cricket’s rotting culture. He’s young, brash and terribly loose, not just technically. Yet, he is talented. Behind Michael Clarke (err… actually very far behind), Warner is Australia’s most capable and explosive batsman. Australia’s other two superior talents aren’t even in the test team. One is wicketkeeper Matthew Wade who is waiting behind a sadly washed up Brad Haddin and the other is Shaun Marsh who strangely is highly rated by international onlookers but not so much by Cricket Australia.
Warner is far from the complete package but he is an important piece to the puzzle. Australia need him but they don’t need the Warner of 2013. Currently, the swashbuckler is a professional by title but not by nature. No true athlete committed to winning prioritises the sweet taste of a pint over the glory of winning matches. Maybe, Warner is a social hermit and an obsessive trainer but the public image he paints of himself is on the other extreme.
Clarke is screaming out for a buddy who he can bat with for long periods. Warner isn’t exactly an occupier of the crease but he is a run scorer who bats without Shane Watson’s mental fragility and Ed Cowan’s overwhelming limitations. Change must come from within, both in Warner’s and Australia’s case. But also, influence from beyond the intimate closures of the dressing-rooms must be utilised to rejuvenate the state of Australian cricket. Warner’s maturity would be fast-tracked dramatically if past players like fellow New South Welshman Glenn McGrath took him under his wing. McGrath’s obsessive commitment to bowling, weights and fitness was elite. After a long days play of test cricket, McGrath resisted the temptation of packing it in for the day and, instead, would go straight to the gym for extra leg weight training to ensure his strength and power was maintained.
Sure, Australia’s top order lacks genuine world class talent but what they sorely lack is the warrior’s mentality. Led by Peter Siddle, the Aussie bowlers embrace the struggle but the batsmen have shown little interest in overcoming adversity. Brendan Fevola has shown more defiance to the punt and the piss than Australian batsmen has to quality bowling. Maybe Australian cricketers aren’t used to facing adversity after a long period of bludgeoning dominance. Yet, is that really an excuse for their current ineptitude?
Twenty20 cricket is at fault for the low scores. India’s money has corrupted the cricketer’s heart. Australia’s domestic competition’s scheduling is undermining player development! Perhaps, these statements all played a part in the Baggy Green’s demise. In fact, cricketers have turned into ‘hired guns’, which has caused a disconnect and a phoney sense of ‘team’. How can a healthy team environment be established if the XI is different every year? Stability has proven to be the one constant theme for every successful team in sport (Geelong Cats, Melbourne Storm and NBA’s San Antonio Spurs to just name a few). Past cricketing greats, like the Chappells, believe ‘talent’ is the only issue. We just needs more gun players! Cheers for that! Their assessment is simplified and practical but not very helpful to Australia’s current plight.
Cricket Australia’s misguided ‘rotation policy’ demonstrates their eagerness to borrow strategies from other sports. How about borrowing the right ideas? Well coached teams in all sports implement a system or style of play that best suits the talent at its disposal. Does Australia’s talent allow them to continue the Australian tradition of aggressive and free flowing batting? No. It’s time for ‘Boof’ Lehman to emphasise occupying the crease as rule number one.
Warner’s inclusion in the test team allows the other top and middle order batsmen to play a more defined supporting role. Phil Hughes, Steve Smith and even Clarke can patiently build a platform for a long decisive innings, instead, of feeling consumed by the slow run rate and small total.
It’s time for Warner to put aside the ‘kid’ and become the year-round professional that Australia’s top order desperately needs.