With the Ashes 2019 looming just around the corner, David Warner is a man with a definite mission. It’s been nearly two decades now since Australia last brought the urn back from the United Kingdom, and all their players - especially Warner - would be eager to turn the team's fortunes around.
Warner has been named in Tim Paine’s infantry to battle it out in the chilly, treacherous conditions that will be on offer. England has been a dreaded land for the men coming in from Down Under since the turn of the century, and things aren't likely to be easy this time around either.
Everyone remembers the tearful Warner in that embarrassing press conference in Sydney where he admitted to masterminding the infamous ball-tampering saga at Newlands. As he traversed through an emotional meltdown, the belligerent Australian opening batsman seemed resigned to the fact that he may never represent the gold or white of Australia in international cricket again.
Shortly after that Warner was stripped of his official endorsements, and his participation in the IPL 2018 also came to an abrupt and sorry conclusion.
15 months on, time has proved that Warner was utterly wrong in believing that he might never wear Australia’s international kit again. The bull of New South Wales is now back to his usual routine of piling up runs and playing match-winning knocks for his country. He is back in the opening spot, quickly regaining his position as the backbone of the top order.
This meteoric resurgence to the top draw, however, didn’t really commence from the World Cup. The southpaw had given indications of his ominous form in the IPL preceding the mega-event.
Warner once again proved to be a vital cog for Sunrisers Hyderabad and managed to bag the Orange Cap in what proved to be a stellar season for him. With eight fifties and a ton to his name, Warner amassed a staggering 690 runs to make a strong case for World Cup selection.
He had only gotten a sniff at that point and it was evident that he was ravenous to do more, to somehow win back the respect and adoration of the Australian public and the cricket fans scattered all around the globe.
With Australia embarking on their World Cup campaign, Warner initially struggled to find his timing and his strike rate was no way near what we were used to seeing from him. His sluggish 56 off 84 deliveries against India, when the Aussies were chasing a mammoth total, was heavily criticized.
Despite putting up solid knocks, Warner's batting was deemed to be too slow (by his standards). Doubts and question marks began to arise over the left-hander’s intent.
It was only in the game against Pakistan on a chilly day at Taunton that the David Warner of old surfaced. Excellent hand-eye coordination, energetic foot movement, boisterous calls, balanced poise and posture and the whiplash effect of hitting both through and across the line were all synced together as he brought up a battling hundred to keep Australia in the hunt.
The innings was, as many had fervently hoped for, followed by his trademark leap of jubilation. That leap of gold sowed the seeds of a remarkable turnaround to his international career.
Here's a video review of Warner's monumental innings, including the leap that he has made his own:
The journey through the tournament wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. Warner had a lot to consider and even more to ponder. He had to keep upping the ante as far as scoring runs at a modern-day rate was concerned, but also had to deal with the jeering taunts that he was assaulted with by the English fans.
Every time he was fielding on the fence or went strolling out of the inner ring to collect the ball from the stands or marched out in his batting attire towards the 22 yards, fans would rush down the aisles and hurl hostile abuses towards the man who was considered a villain just one year ago.
But the white noise, as he once referred to those hoots and snipes as, doesn’t ruffle Warner. In fact, he has begun to thrive on it. He has gone as far as wearing ear pods while batting in the nets and listening to mellow music most of the time.
"Yeah, definitely. That's probably why I had Lewis Capaldi on my playlist ... a bit mellow," Warner said, speaking about the subtle change in his way of going about things. "For me, it's about just relaxing when I'm out there. I always am relaxed but I think just at training you try different things and for me, it's working. I enjoy that…”
The combative, bellicose Warner who would react to everything and who fell into an embarrassing abyss after the Newlands scandal, seems to be gone.
Following the newly found redemption against Pakistan, Warner would go on to stockpile more runs as the marquee event progressed. His 166 against Bangladesh and 122 against South Africa were the prominent highlights as he notched up a total of 647 runs at an exceptional average of 71.9.
The left-handed opener fell one run short of Rohit Sharma’s 648 in bagging the title of most runs scored at the event, but he had done enough to be showered with well-deserved praises from the cricketing fraternity and more importantly, cement a spot for the Ashes.
English tours and English crowds can have a torturous effect on a player’s psyche. And amidst the boos and sneering jeers that will welcome Australia, Warner’s newly-equipped mode of keeping his mindset calm might well do the job for him and his country.
All of a sudden, Warner is a warrior with a silent struggle - unbreakable, because he has nothing to lose; unstoppable, because he has everything to gain.Published 31 Jul 2019, 23:38 IST