Under the SKanner: David Warner
Analysing Australia's vice-captain, decoding his strengths and weaknesses.
Being plucked out of nowhere for the T20I series against South Africa in the 2008/09 season, David Warner became the first Australian player in 132 years to play for the national team without playing a single first-class game. Not only did he create history, he had a memorable debut as he went on to score a blistering 89 off 43 balls as he helped Australia win the first T20I after a disappointing test series loss. Since then he hasn’t looked back. In his 2nd ODI, he made an attacking 69. His form dipped later as the ODIs progressed and faced the axe before storming his way back into the side.
After his limited-overs success, he made his Test debut in 2011 when slots were opening up in the Test team and he proved his worth in the longest format as well and soon became a key member of the Australian side in all three formats. Scoring consistently and at a very good rate became a habit for Warner as he thrived on taking the attack to the opposition from the word go.
Let’s analyse the current Australian vice-captain’s strengths and weaknesses.
Explosive Opener – Ability to score runs at a brisk pace
One of Warner’s strengths is his attacking and aggressive nature. It is almost certain that whenever Warner scores runs, he will score them quickly irrespective of the format. He can take the game away from the opposition very quickly.
In January this year, Warner became the first person to score a hundred before lunch on day one in Australia in a Test. He has also scored the 3rd fastest Test century by an Australian. His career strike-rate in Tests, ODIs and T20Is is 78, 97 and 140 respectively, which is staggering. His ability to decimate the bowling is second to none and he is one of the most swashbuckling openers in the modern game, irrespective of the format.
Very strong against pace
David Warner loves pace on the ball. Across formats, he has played fast bowlers better than the spinners. He is strong, both on the front foot as well as the back foot. He plays the cut, pull and the hook shots really well. He likes to drive on the up and can score freely on both sides of the wicket. He can make batting look easy against quality attacks and has quick hands and a great hand-eye coordination, which often helps against pace.
Consistency and impact
The southpaw averages 47.73 and 44.23 in Tests and ODIs respectively, which is pretty good for an opening batsman. He scored 1388 ODI runs in 2016 including a record 7 tons (second most centuries in a calendar year). He scored these runs at an average of 63.09 and a strike-rate of 105. He never wastes a good patch pass without creating an impact.
His consistency remains in Tests and T20Is as well. He has close to 1700 T20I runs and close to 5500 Test runs. And the rate at which he scores, he always has a big impact on the game and the opposition.
Warner has a big appetite for runs. He always looks to convert a hundred into bigger scores. In Tests, out of 40 fifty-plus scores, he has 18 hundreds and in ODIs, 13 out of 29 fifty-plus scores are hundreds. His hunger for runs is evident; he never wants to waste a start and if he gets his eye in, he provides a solid platform for a big score.
Big T20 player
Warner burst onto the international scene due to his T20 exploits. He has continued from where he started. He is a big T20 player as he shoulders the responsibility of doing the bulk of the scoring early on. He has a magnificent T20 record; he's played a staggering 236 T20 games in his career so far and scored 7562 runs at a mind-boggling strike-rate of 143.45.
He has a terrific IPL record scoring over 4000 runs and has won the Orange Cap twice (2015 and 2017). He was the sixth batsmen to score 1500 T20I runs. He is currently at No. 7 on the list of leading run-scorers in T20Is.
Low, slow pitches in Asia
It is no secret that Warner loves pace on the ball and he thrives on it. Undoubtedly, he possesses a strong method on quick pitches, but has been found wanting on slow and low pitches in the subcontinent. He averages a mere 24.30 in Tests in Asia and has mustered only one century. In the Test series at India earlier this year, he scored 193 runs in 8 innings with just one fifty which underlines his struggles in the subcontinent.
Not only in Tests, even in ODIs, Warner has struggled in the subcontinent. He has scored 308 runs (one century and one fifty) in 12 games at an average of 25.67. With averages of 24.30 and 25.67 in Tests and ODIs respectively, it is clear that Warner has struggled to replicate his success and many pundits deem him a ‘flat-track bully’.
Struggles against spinners and the turning ball
He has quick hands and a great hand-eye coordination, which often helps against pace. But it is always better to play as late as possible against spin, particularly when the ball is turning. He seems to be confused while playing on turning tracks, whether to back his aggressive game or bide the time and play a long innings.
Spin has been Warner’s long-time nemesis. Ravichandran Ashwin has made Warner his victim qite a few times, on 9 occasions in Tests. Out of 8 innings in India this year, he got out to spin 6 times. Even in Sri Lanka last year (2016), he got out to spin in 5 out of the 6 innings. The turning ball has troubled Warner right from the start of his career.
Struggles in England
If Asia is Warner’s top-most problem, England comes second. He has struggled in England, not as much as he has in Asia, but he has had his fair share of problems against swing and the moving ball. He averages 37.45 in 13 innings in Tests in England while his one-day record is poorer. He has scored just 248 runs in 10 innings. He has never scored a century in the UK.
Inability to score consistently away from home
In both Tests and ODIs, Warner has been inconsistent away from home. While Warner has been a dominant force at home, he looks out of sorts sometimes when things don’t go his way. He tries to force the issue every time. Most of his big scores have come either at home or in South Africa on quick pitches.
He averages 36.15 in Tests away from home when compared to 59.22 at home. Out of his 18 Test centuries, only 4 have been away from home and 3 of them have been in South Africa. In ODIs, he averages 40.50 away from home and 48.42 at home with 9 centuries at home out his 13 ODI centuries.
At 30, David Warner may not feel the youngest, but he certainly has time to plug a few holes in his career such as doing well in Asia and England and these may be at the top of his priority list. He can certainly finish as one of the best Australian openers in all formats.