David Warner: Australia's talented little dynamite

David Warner © Getty Images

Born on October 27, 1986, David Warner is one of the most destructive batsmen in modern cricket. Aayush Puthran looks back at the career of the diminutive but explosive, charismatic and outspoken cricketer.

“With anything in life, if you put your mind to it, if you knuckle down and you really want something, you get it. If you keep believing and knowing that you’re giving 100 per cent to every fine detail of what you want to do or what you want to become as a professional and as a person, you leave no stone unturned and keep going for it and keep reaching out. Because one day it will come and it will happen for you”
David Warner

He is not brash or ugly, simply aggressive and outspoken. Much of David Warner’s off-field persona reflects on his game. He is out there to win you a game, but his methods are often questioned. He reserves a special place for being the first player in Australian cricket’s 132-year old history since John Hodges and Tom Kendall to have represented the country without having played a single First-Class match.The oodles of talent in his batting were backed, but one wonders as to what extent did that pay off for the national selectors.

Early years
 
Born in Paddington, a suburb in Sydney, Warner took up cricket at a young age. His love to send the ball flying over the ropes, earned him his local coach’s ire who forced him to switch into a right-handed batsman at the age of 13 in order to curb his lofted hitting. However, the move didn’t work for long as he got back to his favored left-handed grip within a year. However, that one year helped him become one of the best switch-hitters in the game.
 
The exploits were to begin soon.
 
Before graduating to make his first grade debut for the Eastern Suburb Club, Warner had already broken Under-16 record of most runs in a season for the Sydney Coastal Cricket Club. The progress from thereon was swift as he moved on to represent Australia Under-19 on tour to Sri Lanka before being contracted by New South Wales (NSW).
 
Even as his First-Class debut took some time, Warner had started showing his ability to tear apart bowling attacks in List A matches and Twenty20s, starting as a middle-order batsman since 2007.

T20 debut
 
Although reaching 1.7 metres in height, Warner’s strong forearms had made it possible for him to generate immense power to send the ball over the longest of boundaries. Within two years of making his first T20 appearance for NSW, Warner was picked for the national side. Against a South African attack boasting the likes of Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe among others, he cracked a 43-ball 89 to announce his arrival in grand style.

Daniel Brettig wrote in ESPNCricinfo, “The innings brought genuine excitement to a summer that had previously been characterised more by local failures than successes, turning Warner, for better or worse, into an instant celebrity.”

A T20 specialist
 
His One-Day International (ODI) career didn’t get off to the kind of start he would have liked. Despite getting in, he would give away his wicket early, resulting in question marks over his temperament. He scored 106 runs in six ODIs against South Africa and New Zealand, out of which only one knock of 69 at Sydney was noteworthy.
 
However, his quick-fire 20s and 30s, with the occasional big knocks proved more than handy for the Australians. As a result of his style of play, it didn’t take time for him to be branded as a T20 specialist.
 
In 2009, Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Delhi Daredevils signed him. He scored 163 runs at an average of 23.28 and with a strike-rate of 123.48 during the 2009 season in South Africa. Apart from being a destructive batsman, Warner’s electric fielding is an invaluable asset for his team. In 2010, Delhi Daredevils signed him for US $750,000 and it paid off in no time. Warner hogged the spotlight for his unbeaten 107 off 69 balls against the Kolkata Knight Riders.
 
Till October 2011, he played 27 T20 Internationals for Australia on the trot without representing them in Tests and playing just one ODI in a one-off match against Scotland, where he was dismissed for a duck. In the ICC World T20 2010, Warner scored 150 runs in seven innings, including a destructive 72 off 42 balls against India, as Australia cruised to the final.

During this period, he made his First-Class debut against Western Australia. Although he scored crucial runs for his team, he was yet to provide evidence that he could stay at the crease for a long time.
 
In October 2011, he became the first player in history to smash two consecutive centuries in T20 cricket, when he scored 135 not out and 123 not out for New South Wales Blues against the Chennai Super Kings and the Royal Challengers Bangalore respectively in the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20). He also went on to break the KFC Big Bash record for the fastest fifty, when he reached the mark in 18 balls, eclipsing George Bailey’s previous mark of 19 deliveries.

It was evident that Warner wanted to grow as a Test batsman. Just when he was a veteran of 11 First-Class matches, he said he idolised Virender Sehwag and wanted to adopt his approach to become a successful Test player.
 
“He’s (Sehwag) a great player that I’ve looked up to in the last couple of years, especially when I’ve been training with him and seeing how he goes about his stuff,” he said. “When I went to Dehli [in 2009], Sehwag watched me a couple of times and said to me, ‘You’ll be a better Test cricketer than what you will be a Twenty20 player’,” Warner was quoted as saying by the Australian media.
 
“I basically looked at him and said ‘Mate, I haven’t even played a First-Class game yet’,” he added.

Test debut
 
Little was he to know that a Test debut was round the corner. With Australia looking for answers to their opening conundrum, he was selected to play in the series against New Zealand in November 2011. After a poor start in the first three innings, Warner played an uncharacteristic knock of 123 in a nail-biting thriller as he carried his bat through the innings. It was a feat, even the likes of Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer hadn’t achieved. He became the 13th Australian and 48th player overall to carry his bat in a Test innings. However, his efforts went in vain as the hosts lost the second Test at Hobart by seven runs.

Against an Indian side that was expected to whitewash a struggling Australian outfit, he smashed a 159-ball 180 at Perth to prove his worth in the longer format. He wasn’t conventional. But like his idol Sehwag, he was effective. However, it was an otherwise poor series as he managed to score just 86 runs from five other innings. This led to questions over his ability to adjust to the demands of the longer format.

Nonetheless, he peaked in the 50-over format slamming back-to-back centuries against Sri Lanka in the 2012 Commonwealth Bank tri-series. The year 2012 proved to be fruitful for the left-hander as he scored at an average of nearly 40 in 11 Tests, 35 in 25 ODIs and 27.83 in 13 T20Is. he also scored a 51-ball century for the Sydeny Thunder during the Big Bash season. In the process, he also surpassed David Hussey’s record for most sixes in the tournament. However, with the turn of the calendar, fortunes too changed for the New South Wales player.

David Warner: Australia's talented little dynamite

David Warner has proved to be better in the T20 format as compared to ODIs and Tests © Getty Images

A year of poor form and controversy
 
Despite starting the year on a good note, his form dipped following the ODI series against Sri Lanka early in the year. He was found out while tackling quality spin in Indian conditions. He scored two fifties in a dismal tour for the Australians as they lost 4-0.
 
A fiery exchange of words followed with Australian journalists Malcolm Conn and Robert Craddock on Twitter over their criticism for Australian players’ participation in the IPL in May 2013. However, the batsman apologised for the happenings on Twitter. He was penalised Aus $5,750 by Cricket Australia (CA) for the public outburst.
 
“To have my image related to an article about fixing … it’s the worst thing that could happen to a cricket player,” Warner said. “What I did through Twitter was disappointing, I shouldn’t have done that and used the language that I did. If I had the time back, I would have made a phone call to Robert, asked why the sub-editors used that image and settled it that way. I take full blame for what happened and apologise to anyone I offended with the language I used,” the New South Wales player told Fox Sports.
 
“I just want to draw a line under all of this and move forward.”
 
However, the misery wasn’t to end there for Warner as he was embroiled in more controversies. After an ICC Champions Trophy 2013 match against England, he punched Joe Root at a pub in Birmingham. Even as he apologised for his actions, Warner was suspended for the rest of the tournament and the first two Ashes 2013 Test matches.
 
On his return to the side for the third Test, he was ironically caught by Root in his second innings.
 
“Hooked another one to Rooty,” Warner said with a laugh at a press conference. “Of all the people in the field… it’s quite comical now, I can’t wait to read Twitter a bit later.”
 
Following the Ashes debacle, where he managed just 138 runs at an average of 23 in three Tests, he was again fined by NSW for one match for missing a match to go to watch a race at the Royal Randwick Racecourse.

Posts Ashes
 
Even as he battled his on and off-field demons, he went on to break another Australian record. He scored 197 for NSW against Victoria, the highest by an Australian in List A cricket.

What the future holds for Warner is as good as anybody’s guess. But it will certainly be an interesting and entertaining one for Australia’s little dynamite.

David Warner’s stats in international cricket as on October 27, 2013

  Matches Runs Average Strike Rate
Tests 22 1,401 36.86 68.87
ODIs 39 1,133 29.81 80.58
T20s 46 1,260 28.63 138

In Photos: David Warner’s cricketing career
 
(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)