Australia dropped David Warner from their squad for the One-Day International (ODIs) series against Scotland and England. The reason coach Darren Lehmann gave was that Warner was out of form in one-day cricket. That may be true. But was it a wise decision? Shrikant Shankar explains why it was wrong to omit the fiery left-hander.
The Australian squad for the One-Day International (ODI) series against Scotland and England was announced on Sunday and the notable absentees were David Warner and Mitchell Starc. While Starc was left out due to soreness in his back, Warner was sent back to Australia due to a lack of runs in one-dayers, according to coach Darren Lehmann. It is true that Warner has somewhat failed to deliver on a consistent basis with the bat ever since he broke into the team. There have been some innings that can be classified as pure magic. Conversely there have been times when it has been a struggle for the left-hander.
Surely, if Warner was playing during Australia’s golden era (which was not too long ago) and faced similar issues, he would have found it extremely difficult to get back into the team. But as it is, Australia are a team in transition and have been for quite a while — well at least too much for their own liking. The Australian selectors have chopped and changed constantly for the last few years. This has hardly brought any stability to the team, let alone instil confidence in the players. It might be a situation where the players are more worried about their place in the team rather than focusing on their performances.
The upcoming ODI series against England is very important and Australia need match-winners. They lost the Ashes 2013 series 3-0. The recently concluded Twenty20 International series finished 1-1. Well Warner was not impressive in the three Tests he played as he only managed one half-century. But then again he is the new breed of players who are more suited for the shorter formats. His attitude and talent would have helped Australia. He also came back to some form in the second T20I with a 42-ball 53.
When exactly did Warner receive the news of his omission is up for debate, but he might not have expected it. After his infamous bar punch on Joe Root, he was sent to Africa to play for the Australia A side. He was then flown back ahead of the third Test at Old Trafford. Throughout that time Lehmann had backed Warner and tried building his confidence. It is also surprising that Australia had an 18-man squad for a two-match T20I series and a 15-man squad for a five-match ODI series. While Steven Smith and, now, Starc have been ruled out due to injury, Warner was drooped for poor form. But there haven’t been any inclusions to the side.
Australia already face a crisis of injuries and captain Michael Clarke’s back is still a cause for concern. What if another player from the squad gets injured? Does Cricket Australia fly in another player from Down Under? The answers to these questions have not been given. So why not retain Warner and let him play a form of cricket that he is more comfortable with. His last few scores in ODIs do not make for great reading — 24, 21, 4, 60, 10 and 9 (in chronological order). But Warner is a bit like India’s Virender Sehwag. A few poor scores could be followed by an extraordinary innings.
The tracks in England over the last few years have been flat for limited overs cricket, as witnessed in the T20I series where the lowest team total was 168 for nine and the highest was 248 for six. Warner would have relished such tracks. England have also rested five key players including captain Alastair Cook for the ODIs. Australia should have named as strong a squad as they could to take advantage and get one over the old rivals in this tour.
Clarke is the captain and George Bailey is his deputy, and the batsmen in direct competition with Warner are Phil Hughes, Shaun Marsh and Adam Voges. While Voges’s last five innings read 28, 112 not out, 15, 71 and 49 — clearly someone in good form — Marsh and Hughes do not have the numbers in international cricket to back their inclusions. Marsh has only played one ODI in the last two years. Hughes’s last five innings read 23, 29, 30, 0 and 13 — someone clearly not in good form. This is not a reason to not include Marsh or Hughes. They have been given time and shown confidence. So why not the same for Warner?
Shane Watson’s spot in the Australian eleven was in serious doubt ahead of the fifth Ashes Test. A lack of big scores and his tendency to get out leg-before were real concerns for Australia. But they stuck with him and he went on to score a magnificent 176 at The Oval. Warner could have been granted the same benefit of the doubt and who knows what he would have achieved. One is not saying that he should always be in the side despite the lack of runs, but all the reasons mentioned above — the pitches, shorter formats, weakened England team and the talent of the batsman — are a good argument for his inclusion.
Warner might or might not be in a disillusioned state of mind at the moment. But Australia have not done anything to increase his confidence. They might still win the series and go back to Australia a much better team than the one that left a few months ago. In the long run and future tournaments, Warner would be needed and included in the team. But that doesn’t take away the fact that dropping him was not the right decision.
(Shrikant Shankar previously worked with Mobile ESPN, where he did audio commentary for many matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20. He has also written many articles involving other sports for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)