With Ashes 2017-18 less than 10 days away, the atmosphere is pumping in both the dressing rooms. The players are ready to begin the battle as quickly as possible and the hype of ‘war’, ‘hatred’ and verbal banters that comes around the Ashes has already commenced. But, whatever happens, happens within the spirit of the game. If there are exchanges of firm stares, a few unfriendly words and everything is filled with aggression, there is also respect for each other.
A player is judged by the sportsmanship he boosts; he must be gracious enough to have the utmost esteem for the opponents and characters like these will help him grow in both, on and off the field. It is OK to make mistakes but it is necessary to learn from them and move ahead and the ones who preach this, go way ahead in their careers. Look at David Warner; when he will walk into the field of Gabba on November 23, he will be altogether a different man from what he was in the Ashes that took place four years ago in England.
In countries like England and Australia, the culture involves enjoying a beer after a long day on the field or at work. A few days back, Warner had explained how cricket and having a beer go together like bat and ball.
— Andrew Flintoff (@flintoff11) June 12, 2013
Before the start of the Ashes 2013, Warner was axed from the first two Tests for punching England’s batsman Joe Root in the face. There was no involvement of police but the incident was leaked and Warner was relegated to Australia A’s series against Zimbabwe. Since then, he has changed. He is married now with a stable family. He is a father to two beautiful daughters and he was also voted Australia’s Dad of the Year in 2016. His wife, Candice Falzon, who is an athlete herself, has altered Warner completely. For someone like Warner, who was a regular drinker, initially gave up alcohol completely. Now he does have but only an odd drink.
Since the incident in England, Warner’s numbers in Tests have consistently enhanced with the passing time. From his debut in 2011 until 2013, Warner had only five Test hundreds in 25 matches. The very next year, Warner registered six Test hundreds followed by four and two centuries in 2015 and 2016. In the ongoing season of 2017, Warner having played seven Tests already has three tons to his account.
Warner – the new example
From the villain in 2013, four years later, Warner is being considered as an example for the youngsters or for that matter, for his teammates and opposition too. England’s Vice-Captain Ben Stokes, who is still in England due to legal issues, has been compared to his Australian counter-part Warner in quite a few aspects. Stokes was arrested after he got involved in a brawl outside a nightclub. Although he is yet to be charged, he has been left behind at home and is likely to miss the first two Tests of the summer Ashes.
While Warner took no time to learn from his mistake in his first alcohol-related incident, Stokes has dragged himself into an unpardonable controversy for the third time. In 2011, Stokes was arrested in Cumbria on a night out for obstructing policeman in his duty and he was believed to be drunk. Two years later, Stokes along with teammate Matt Coles, was sent home from an England Lions tour to Australia for late night drinking.
Warner and Stokes have a lot in common. Both the players are warriors in their respective sides when on the field and always give everything to bring their A-game out. They both are leaders and team guys. They are the first ones to stand for the nervy members of their teams. By standing up against Cricket Australia over the pay issue on behalf of his team, Warner proved what the team means to him. If at all Stokes would find a teammate in a problem, he will go out of the way to solve the issue. Warner and Stokes might be wild on the field but are extremely popular among their teammates. Social media is a solid proof for that.
What separates these cricketers with identical qualities is their contrasting character. Warner’s current form, which has been his best-ever, is the testimony to the fact that if one is honest to himself, a change is certainly possible and the result is always flourishing. When a mistake is done once or maximum for two times, it is forgivable but when the person repeats it for a third time, it does not remain a mistake anymore but it becomes a habit. And a habit of getting into fights, where alcohol is involved too, does not reflect good on the part of an international cricketer.
While Australia will be more than happy to not face Stokes in the first two Tests, England surely have their planning underway about how they would deal with Warner on top of the Australian order. The English side is well aware of the fact that Warner is as belligerent off the field as on the field. They clearly would not have forgotten Warner’s third innings knocks in the first three Tests of the 2013-14 Ashes – including two centuries and an 83 not out – helping Australia to a famous whitewash.
Warner was always termed as a ‘home-basher’ and was criticised for struggling in Asia. He did have a quiet series in India earlier this year but “The Bull” in him came right outside when Australia toured Bangladesh. Before the tour, Warner was eluded of a hundred on the Asian soils and by the time the series ended, Warner had two centuries, which he scored in the two Tests they played. If the drawn series in Bangladesh has proved to be a huge morale booster to someone, it is Warner. These scores have given enough confidence to Warner for the upcoming Ashes. It makes it even better as the series is being played at home.
Warner-fear? Even Broad admits it!
Warner, in Australia, averages almost 60 in Tests and in the last two Ashes, he has ensured his presence was felt with the bat. In the 2015 series in England, the fourth, overall, with 418 runs at 46.44 and in 2013-14, he went berserk against the Poms at home as he topped the runs charts with 523 runs at 58.11. England’s spearhead and one of the senior-most members of the team, Stuart Broad without any hesitation, admitted that facing Warner will be no fun on the Australian soils.
“He’s one of those blokes who is not that enjoyable to play against, but if he’s in your team you love him. You have characters like that in most successful sports teams, don’t you? Someone who if he’s in the field, will stay in the battle, looking someone in the eye all the time, keep his bowlers moving … someone who can take the game away from you quickly,” Broad said.
When Broad said every team needs characters like Warner’s personality because he is someone who drives the team forward, suddenly, Warner’s words against England, that came out of pure Ashes-related aggression, did not seem offensive, anymore.
By saying the Australians will have to “delve and dig deep into their selves to actually get some hatred about them [England] to actually get up when we’re out there,” Warner admitted having gone a bit far. Although he said should not have used combative language against England in the lead-up to the Ashes, he will be ready for some verbal banter in the series. When aggression has been Warner’s strength, he will try to capitalise it to make it work around his game.
The Australian vice-captain has been nicknamed by his teammates as the “Reverend” and the dashing opener plans to stick to the image unless it will be required of him to step up and bring the “mongrel” Warner out on the field.