David Warner’s value to Australia is unquestionable



Yet again David Warner, by amassing a scintillating century, has proved his immense worth to the Australian cricket team as an aggressive match-winning opener. He will be sorely missed by the Australian Test team when he retires after the SCG match of this series.

There are varying opinions on him announcing his preference for an SCG send-off. I prefer the former great Australian allrounder Keith Miller’s version. Miller wanted to retire while people asked “Why did you?” rather than “Why don’t you?”

Warner could have been following the example set by Steve Waugh in 2003-04 of having a season-long send-off. Protracted farewells like that can make cricket decisions difficult for members of the players’ own team. Damien Martyn found that out in the Gabba Test in that 2003-04 series against India, sacrificing his wicket when a mix-up led to the prospect of Waugh being run-out. It can also test the resolve of the selectors if the upcoming retiree endures a bad start to the season.

Or Warner might have been following the example set by Greg Chappell in 1983-84. Chappell announced before the final Test against Pakistan at the SCG that it was to be his last match. He was 69 runs behind Sir Donald Bradman’s Australian record for most Test runs. It was a bold and unusual move from Greg, and when I asked why he’d done it, he gave a plausible answer: ” I could no longer drag up the intense concentration like I used to, so I thought the extra incentive might help.” It worked for Greg: he scored a magnificent century to become Australia’s leading Test run-getter at the time.

If Warner was looking for similar motivation, it has worked a treat. Now, barring injury, he’ll get – as he should – a fond SCG farewell.

It might be acceptable to question Warner’s retirement preference but no one should ever query his value to Australian cricket. Very few players have the guts and skill to attack the new ball from the outset in Warner fashion. Having played in sides with South Australia’s captain Les Favell and Australia’s Keith Stackpole, I’m well aware of the enormous value of an attacking opener. Warner is in that mould and his strike rate as an opener is better than all others at Test level, bar the audacious and very successful Virender Sehwag.

Not only does an aggressive opener make life easier for his partner and others he may bat with, the opposing captain is also wary against him, particularly with field placings. If this results in deep-set fields then that is a major advantage to the attacking opener’s team. It also provides an edge if an aggressive opener is prepared to take on the opposition fast bowlers’ short-pitched deliveries from the outset. This again assists those who follow. Warner, like Stackpole and Favell, is of that mindset.

However, Warner’s value to his team doesn’t just start and finish with his aggressive batting. As we saw in Australia’s recently achieved 50-over World Cup victory, his brilliant outfielding is an enormous asset in a team’s success.

There is also his catching. He’s not the best slip fielder at Test level, as Australia are fortunate to have had a number of brilliant specialists, but he’s competent.

All of that says why Warner will be a hard man to replace in Australia’s Test side. The selectors’ choice will be difficult and currently there is no one on the horizon who is even close to Warner’s value to the team.

Warner has been a polarising figure in the Australian side and much of the love-hate relationship stems from the part he played in the controversial 2018 sandpaper affair in Cape Town. If he does expose his version of events in a book following his ultimate retirement, it will make for extremely interesting reading. It also ensures there will be a lot of very nervous people around Australian cricket awaiting any revelations.

Whether you love or hate Warner, you should never underestimate his value to Australian cricket. Warner is a rare gem and Australia have been lucky to have his services in a long and distinguished career.



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