Warner a future captain, says Mickey Arthur
A poor run of scores in the Big Bash League has the incumbent T20 captain Cameron White looking over his shoulder, and Warner has advanced his leadership credentials greatly by leading the Sydney Thunder. He was also named captain of a Cricket Australia Chairman's XI for one of India's pre-series warm-up matches in Canberra, proof that the national selectors are not blind to the possibility.
Add to that a barnstorming 180 in Perth to set the course of the third Test and Warner's stock is rising fast. Arthur, also a selector, said his own perceptions of Warner as a brash T20 merchant had been confounded by working closely with him since his Test debut against New Zealand in Brisbane.
"Davey has leadership potential. He has the ability to lead any Australian team in any form of the game at some stage," Arthur said. "Whether that's in the next couple of weeks or whether that's in a year or five years time I'm not sure.
"He has a very good cricket brain. He leads a lot by example. He trains the house down. The perceptions that everybody had of David Warner and the reality of David Warner the person are poles apart."
Arthur further believes that Shaun Marsh can arrest his slump in the fourth Test in Adelaide after he saw signs of improvement in Marsh's batting at the WACA. Arthur also hinted that Shane Watson was more likely to make his comeback from injury in next month's limited-overs matches rather than in the Adelaide Test, where the offspinner Nathan Lyon might be the only inclusion.
While Lyon's return will force a reshuffle of the fast-bowling line-up, the batting group is unlikely to change, which will give the struggling Marsh and Brad Haddin a chance to regain their form. Marsh has made 0, 3, 0 and 11 in this series and he is the only one of the top six who has not made a significant contribution to Australia's 3-0 lead.
Cricket Australia has also cleared Marsh and Haddin, along with Lyon and Mitchell Starc, to play in the Big Bash League before the Adelaide Test, a sign that they are the few men who need more time in the middle. The rest of the Test players will remain out of the Twenty20 tournament while they prepare for the fourth Test.
"The stars have aligned for us in the whole series except in the No.3 position," Arthur said. "We haven't got anywhere near selecting the squad that's going to go down there. If Shaun gets that opportunity, which I'm hoping he does, I'm pretty sure he'll go out there and perform well.
"I saw signs of him coming back. I saw signs of his movement being a lot crisper. His weight transfer was a lot better. He looked really good at a point in this innings [in Perth]. I'm just hoping he gets through it and gets a score, because if he gets a score, Shaun is a player who, once he gets on a roll, is hard to bowl at. Hopefully Adelaide is the catalyst for him."
Marsh has a fine record at Adelaide Oval, where he has made two centuries and two fifties from five first-class matches and averages 64.44. Another big score there would ease the pressure on him after his lean patch, which followed a six-week lay-off due to a serious back injury that he picked up while batting in the Cape Town Test in November.
"We just thought he was tentative in the first two Test matches," Arthur said. "By his own admission he was as well. It's hard when you're coming back into the team after an injury, it's always tough. You need to get going, you start doubting yourself and your ability. You just need a score and he hasn't got that yet. Hopefully Adelaide is the place and hopefully he takes that into the Twenty20s and one-dayers."
Those shorter-format games, which begin with a T20 against India in Sydney on February 1, could also mark the return of Watson, who has not played a home Test so far this summer due to his injury problems. Watson has been battling hamstring and calf injuries this season, and whenever he returns to the Test side, it will mean a reshuffle for the batting order with David Warner and Ed Cowan having established a promising opening combination.
"We're wanting a fit and firing Shane Watson for the T20s and one-day series and I'm pretty sure we're going to have that," Arthur said. "Whether he plays in Adelaide or not, I'm not sure. But I do know that Shane Watson will be around our Twenty20 and one-day side.
"I don't see the need to change too much right now. I think we've got some really good momentum. We've had a lot of success with this squad."
The one change that does seem certain for the Adelaide Test, which starts on Tuesday next week, is the return of Lyon for one of the fast bowlers. Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus appear to be certain starters, especially with such a long break between matches, while Starc and Ryan Harris are the two men in danger of losing their place.
"All indications are in Adelaide you're going to play a spinner, there's no doubt about that," Arthur said. "Mitchell Starc came into the squad this time and he performed really well. It's part of us broadening the base of our quick bowlers. We'll have a look at how all the guys pull up."
The early finish to the Perth Test, where Australia regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, has given most of the players a chance to fly home before they reconvene in Adelaide.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo