“I like Kuldeep’s confidence. Credit to him for the way he bowled (in Kolkata). But the pressure is on him to perform, not me. You have played two Test matches and nine ODIs – when you are young, you have that confidence. I remember I had that kind of confidence when I was young and probably said things I would not now. When he speaks like that, he is bringing the pressure on himself,” David Warner said after India’s young sensation Kuldeep Yadav arrogantly suggested that the Australian gets under pressure against him.
If one rewinds to 2009 when a 23-year-old Warner made his international debut, one wouldn’t have expected a statement as sensible as this one from him. When he took his baby steps into the sport, Warner was a package of aggression, arrogance and the character that would not have taken him this far. Warner-critics still associate him as an irresponsible cricketer who was suspended by Cricket Australia for punching England’s Joe Root outside a bar in Birmingham and had also been warned over a Twitter spat with a pair of journalists.
Ever since then, ‘The Reverend,’ a nickname given to Warner by his teammates, has altered his life for good. Ironically, he is among the players, nowadays, who make an effort to stop an on-field brawl between players. Recently, VVS Laxman, former Indian cricketer, on Star Sports revealed that despite being an Australian, Warner has not touched alcohol while his time with the Indian Premier League team Sunrisers Hyderabad in the last three seasons.
When Warner made his international debut in a T20I match against South Africa in 2009, he became the third player in the history of Australian cricket to make an international debut before playing a First-Class game. In his first-ever match in the yellow jersey, Warner scored the then second-fastest T20I fifty and earned the Player of the Match in Australia’s win for his 89 off 43 balls.
He earned a match for Australia because the selectors saw potential in him and it would have been a waste of talent, had Warner been sent away from the game due to his “thuggish” behaviour, on and off the field.
Warner, at the very right time, has realised the value of cricket in his life. The attacking batsman had spoken about his tough childhood earlier and cricket, certainly, has been the way out for Warner to put back those rough memories. He used to live in a commission-estate house that the government provides for low-income families. As a 14-year-old, Warner started packing boxes in a supermarket, and would sometimes work till 3 am for 12$ per hour shifts. His routine was like wake up, go to school, play some cricket and get back to work. It was cricket that has given everything that Warner has in his life right now.
Destined to open
Warner is the first cricketer in his family so that goes without saying that he has climbed up the ladder in his career all by himself with sheer hard work and determination. However, he has been showered with enough good luck as well.
“Mate, I want you to open tomorrow. I know you haven’t done it but I think you are ready. I just want you to be yourself, back your instincts and take the game on. Don’t worry about any selection issues.”
These are the words that changed Warner’s life completely and would do wonders for the Australian cricket in the near future. For a brief amount of time, Warner played under Dominic Thornely in New South Wales (NSW). Before Warner’s international debut, one day, fighting against the selectors, who thought Warner would do well down the order, Thornely wanted Warner to open for NSW.
“We at NSW had the left-handers opening as part of our game plan. Simon Katich was with the Australian team, so was Phil Jaques, and I thought Warner was exactly the person I wanted first up. He had an attacking game, and was good against fast bowlers. He wasn’t so good against spin at that stage in his career, and I thought he would be better off with the new ball,” Thornely told The Indian Express.
Apart from one ODI, Warner has played either at No. 1 or No. 2 position in the ODIs.
Forgettable ODI debut
After putting up a dazzling show in his maiden T20I series for Australia, he was named in the ODI squad as well but he did not fair the same way in the 50-over format. He did not play in the first ODI in Melbourne but went on to feature in the rest four matches in the series. His scores read as 5, 69, 1 and 22 as Australia lost the five-ODI series 1-4 at home.
A mature Warner’s recall after 2 years
He was out of the ODI squad for more than two years following Australia’s loss to South Africa at home before he was recalled for South Africa tour in October 2011.
Warner, when began his international career, mixed up the two formats of ODI and T20. Prior to the South Africa tour in 2011, he admitted having understood that 50-over game is a lot different from the shortest format.
“Back then [in 2009], I thought I had to go out there and play the way I did in the Twenty20, like I did in my debut. It all just went so quickly. Now I’ve realised what one-day cricket is all about setting the tone from the start and trying to make your way to the latter part of the overs. I’ve learnt a lot in the last couple of years, speaking to the likes of Michael Clarke and Shane Watson about one-day cricket has helped me a lot,” Warner said.
After being eluded of a maiden ODI hundred for 18 matches, Warner finally clinched it in 2012 in Brisbane against Sri Lanka. Let alone that, he had a second one to his name in the very next ODI in Adelaide.
2015-2017 – best years in his career
Warner has had a roller-coaster journey since his debut in 2009. It was only two years back when his evolution has begun in all the formats, especially in Tests and ODIs. After hitting just two ODI tons in his first five years for Australia, he smashed 11 in the next three years and that is surely a huge jump in the batting graph: while he never averaged 40 in those years, he suddenly averaged 50+ in the next three consecutive years – 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The year 2016 has been the highlight in his 50-over career where he was the leading run-scorer with 1,388 runs that was inclusive of seven centuries and four fifties.
Warner is a batsman who has always been termed as a T20 specialist. But the cricketer has never accepted the tag as he has always wanted to be known as a “person in the team who is going to win matches.” He has built an image for himself in a way that he will always be a threat to the opponent, regardless of his form. Because, one never knows when ‘the Bull’ inside him will explode. The NSW-born cricketer has always played on his terms and the most important thing that has worked brilliantly is that he has managed to use his strength – aggression – in the right way across the formats.
Maybe, Warner is struggling in India right now and Australia have already lost the five-ODI series 0-3. When both the nations take on each other in Bengaluru, inpsite of being a dead-rubber, Warner will still be the first wicket, India will aim to get when he walks into the field to play a memorable 100th ODI for Australia.