Why David Warner deserves a shot at Australian T20I captaincy after his IPL heroics
Cricket Australia should ensure that they don't end up doing a Warne to Warner.
Apart from all the bowling records that he managed to have against his name, Shane Warne also ended his career with a less flattering stat. The leggie hung up his boots after 145 Test matches for Austrailia but in the presence of stalwarts like Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, he never got an opportunity to lead the side, eventually becoming the cricketer with maximum tests without leading his side.
Despite his consistent talismanic performances with the ball, Warne was never seen as a serious contender for the top job. He didn’t help his cause much with constant run-ins with Cricket Australia. When Mark Taylor left the stage in 1999 to Steve Waugh, Warnie could have staked a claim for the leadership, but he instead chose to stalk controversy and due to his strained relationship with both coach John Buchanan and captain Steve Waugh, he never captained Australia.
And then 2008 happened. One year after finishing his career with an Ashes victory, Shane Warne was handed the responsibility of leading a franchise in IPL made up mostly of young unknown names. And Warne, as he used to do with the ball in his hand while on his five step run up, rubbed a little magic to his team and shocked everyone as the team that no one gave a chance when the tournament began, trumped the bigger names to run away with the title in the inaugural edition of the league.
David Warner in 2016 was not a Warne of 2008 in any sense. He is 29 opposed to Warne’s 39 in 2008. He still is on the ascent with his Australian career and he still has a chance to win the leadership of the national team. But what he shares with Shane Warne is his affinity for controversies.
Although it’s three years old now, the punch that Warner threw at Joe Root still casts a long shadow over his career. His bat has done the talking over the years but so has his mouth and he has shown a penchant for getting into unnecessary fights with cricketers and journalists alike.
But the Sunrisers Hyderabad captain looked a different man altogether with his Indian Premier League team. Few years ago, no team that had Warner in it could think of winning the Fairplay award, but this year a Warner led team earned it. A composed Warner, totally focused on his craft and his job, was on display this season.
Maybe, a couple of years ago, David Warner would have given Praveen Kumar back as good as he got from the pacer when the Indian tried to rattle him with words in the qualifier. But Warner, for a change, stood at his crease smiling. He knew he had a job at hand and that was to close the game and he couldn’t have afforded a slip up in the last lap.
And he responded the best way possible – with the bat.
Another Warner moment that stood out for me was his reaction to the team’s loss in their second-last match against Delhi Daredevils. To put things in perspective, his team had made it to the playoffs and were searching for one victory that would put them in the top 2.
Warner, who had earlier dropped man of the match Karun Nair in Delhi’s chase, was furious with himself when the last shot went past him to give Delhi the victory. That moment of frustration and agony, as he slammed the ground with all his might, showed how dearly Warner wanted the trophy.
As a captain, on paper, Warner's task was easier with a team much stronger than the Royals of 2008. But a closer look would tell that the truth often gets obscured in clichés. While Warne had a totally young and inexperienced outfit which he could mould the way he would have wanted, Warner had a tougher task at hand.
Warner had one-time foe Shikhar Dhawan for his opening partner. Although high on reputation, the Delhi dasher has also created a habit of not delivering when it matters.
Then Warner had Yuvraj Singh, the star who is fighting tooth and nail to prove to the world that his best years are not behind him. In Mustafizur Rehman, Warner had a lethal weapon, who, with his impeccable skills and language troubles, could have gone wrong if not handled well.
At the same time, Warner was leading a squad that also had the captains of New Zealand and England and the Aussie had no qualms in benching them when they couldn't deliver to team's needs. But Warner showed immense faith in the young Barinder Sran and Deepak Hooda and a not so young Moises Henriques throughout the tournament.
So, although unfancied, Sunrisers Hyderabad did have names who came with more burden for the captain than relief.
Although still new in his job, Steven Smith has been brilliant in both the forms as a captain and hasn’t made too many mistakes yet (except for pushing Warner down the order in the World T20 in India). And he surely doesn't deserve to have his T20I captaincy taken away. Not yet at least, after one failure.
But at the same time, one gets the feeling that this is the time when Warner deserves his chance as well. For owing to its annual, and seemingly everyday nature, the performances in the Indian Premier League are short lived in the selector's memory.
Warne's victory lives on in the public consciousness for a number of reasons. He led a bunch of no-hopers to a victory in the first edition of the tournament. And moreover, what added charm to the already charming tale was that it came after his career was over and also his opportunity to lead Australia. It sparked a collective what could have been in the world of cricket.
Warner, on the other hand, won the tournament when it has reached his boyhood and with a team stronger than Warne's Rajasthan Royals of 2008. Besides, the tournament doesn't have the eyes of world cricket glued to it as it was nine years ago, specially after the spot-fixing taint.
So, this is the time for Cricket Australia to take the punt. Throw the captaincy band to the fiercest character in the team. Don't let a Warne happen to Warner. If not now, then it might not happen again.