David Warner: Is he as good as the numbers suggest?
How often have we heard of a cricketer making his International debut before his First-Class one? And that too for a top International team and not an associate nation? Very rarely, if at all, one would say, right?
One cricketer who did so is the swashbuckling Australian opening batsman David Warner. He made his International debut in January 2009 in a T20I before he had played any First-Class match in Australia, and what a debut it was! He shredded the South African bowling attack comprising of Steyn, Ntini, Tsotsobe, Kallis, Botha and Albie Morkel to pieces en route to a breathtaking 89 off just 43 deliveries, hitting 7 fours and 6 sixes. Australia won the match with ease and he was named the Man of the Match. A star was born.
An innings like this, though, is bound to get the label of being a shorter format specialist attached to the batsman, and Warner’s case was no different. After arriving on the International scene, he had to wait almost 3 years to make his Test debut. In this duration, he played 39 matches for Australia, ODIs and T20Is combined, and these were his numbers:
From 10 January 2009 to 30 November 2011
He was Australia’s leading run-scorer in the two limited overs formats in these 3 years, hence a Test debut wasn’t too far away and it finally came in December 2011 at Brisbane against New Zealand.
Two more young stars made their debut in the same match; Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson. He couldn’t do much on debut and was out for 3 in his first Test innings, but made an unbeaten 12 off just 4 balls with 3 fours in the second innings with Australia needing just 19 to win the match.
Since then, there has been no looking back as he went on to quickly establish himself as Australia’s first choice opener in all 3 formats and has racked up some very impressive numbers in this duration. These are his stats in all three formats as a batsman.
On looking at his stats on a home and away/neutral basis
We see that his average, as well as the strike rate, comes down when he plays overseas but that is the case with most batsmen across the world. We hardly see a player in world cricket whose away average would be substantially higher than the home one, and especially for a player like Warner who likes pace and bounce to execute his strokes, the average on hard and bouncy Australian pitches is bound to be better than on slow surfaces.
At home, he is a real force as can be seen by the fact that he has 20 scores above 50 in 50 only innings which is once every 2.5 innings, and a 60% conversion rate of 50s to 100s, which is phenomenal.
As can be seen here, his stats in ODIs both home and away are strikingly similar, which shows his mastery in this form of the game irrespective of the playing conditions. Moreover, he is Australia’s highest run-getter both home and away in ODIs from the time he made is debut. To maintain such consistency at a strike rate of over 90 for a period of more than 5 years is indeed remarkable.
In T20Is too, he has very impressive numbers both home and away. The home record is better but the away record is very good, too, as can be seen by an average of almost 26 striking at 135. And again, as in the case of ODIs, he is Australia’s leading run-getter, both home and away, in T20Is.
To see how he does on spinning pitches, let’s see his numbers in Tests against India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, playing away from Australia (combined):
Unsurprisingly, his stats against top quality spin bowling isn’t great but we have seen in the last 4-5 years since his Test debut how the pitches have spun from day 1 of a Test in the subcontinent and huge scores have been few and far between, even for the batsmen from the home team. Considering this, an average of 33 with a hundred and 4 fifties in 9 Tests, while not brilliant, isn’t too bad either.
Overall, it’s clear that the numbers truly impress by their sheer weight. Very good averages, a good conversion rate of 50s to 100s in Tests and ODIs and most strikingly, an exceptional strike rate in all 3 formats. But the question one would ask, as is the case when we see stats of many players, is: Is he as good as his numbers suggest?
When it comes to giving an opinion on stats, there are 2 types of people:
#1 People who feel that stats can be misleading at times and just numbers are never a true measure of how good/not so good a player is.
#2 People who say that stats ARE stats and are only made when a player performs on the field, so their weight can never be undermined.
In Warner’s case, I’d say it’s a combination of both, simply because the numbers not only look impressive but have also been instrumental in achieving numerous victories for the team as well as countless occasions on which his batting has seized the initiative in a match.
He is a Test opener in the Sehwag mould, who would always take the attack to the opposition bowlers and attack the new ball rather than just seeing it off. As a strike rate of over 77 across 100 innings suggests, he has been hugely successful and consistent in doing what he knows best.
Any team would tell you that if on the first day of a Test, batting first, an opener can attack the new ball bowlers and take his team to over a 100 by lunch, it puts the opposition on the back foot right away and the momentum sits firmly with the batting side. This is where Warner has been the main weapon for the Aussies in the last 5 years.
The fact that he has 16 hundreds and 21 fifties in just 100 innings tells us 2 things:
#1 His conversion rate is excellent as he has gone on to get a 100 in well over 40% of the innings in which he has got a fifty.
#2 He has got 37 fifty-plus scores in 100 innings which means a fifty once in less than 3 innings. This is remarkable consistency.
And all these runs, as mentioned earlier, scored at a rate of 77 runs per 100 deliveries, in a Test match!
In ODI cricket too, any batsman who averages above 40 with a strike rate of almost 95 is worth his weight in gold for a team, and if you add in the fact that this batsman is an opener, the value increases manifold as he then becomes someone who could utilize the field restrictions and get his team off to a flying start more often than not.
In Warner’s case, he not only gives a fast start to an innings but also goes on to take the innings deep, as is suggested by 25 scores of over 50 in 83 one-day innings. The value of his runs is best illustrated by the fact that Australia has won 16 of the 25 matches in which he has scored 50 or more, which speaks volumes of his status as a match winner.
Coming to T20 cricket now and this is where Warner is an undisputed superstar. We have seen his International T20 stats above but his overall numbers, which include his exploits in the IPL, BBL and other leagues, are eye-popping:
Overall T20 stats
A measure of a batsman’s effectiveness in T20 cricket in this age is seen by the total of his average and strike rate. Anything above 150-160 is generally considered very impressive, and if it is nearing 180, it is almost other-worldly. Add to that the consistency of having 59 scores of over 50 in 221 T20 innings, which is once in less than 4 innings, and there is no doubt that the player in question can be called a legend in the brief history of the game’s newest format.
The facts clearly illustrate how in Warner’s case, it is not just that his numbers “look” very good. Digging deeper tells us that he is every bit as impressive and effective a batsman as his stats reflect.
Impact on a match as well as on the psyche of opposition bowlers and the fear he induces in them, they all add to his contribution to the teams he plays for, and these factors backed up with the numbers he has racked up in the last 7 years tell us overwhelmingly that he certainly is as good as his stats suggest, and his is by no means a case of stats hiding the real facts!