Warner coming to terms with greater responsibility
If Australia's rotation policy was extended to batsmen, David Warner would be the first man rested. Warner made his Test debut on December 1 last year, and hasn't missed an international match since. Not a Test. Not a one-day international. Not a Twenty20. During that time, Australia have played 51 games across all formats, and Warner has been part of all 51. Matthew Wade is second on the list with 45. Mitchell Starc, who will endure a forced rest during the Boxing Day Test, has played less than half. If Warner was a fast bowler, his "fatigue index" would be off the charts.
As it was, Warner struggled towards the end of last summer when the workload of three formats began to take its toll. The intensity and constancy of international cricket caught Warner somewhat by surprise. After a hectic home summer of six Tests and a one-day tri-series, Warner has toured the West Indies, England and Ireland, the UAE and Sri Lanka, as well as fulfilling IPL commitments in India and Champions League duties in South Africa. Players of the past were lucky to visit that many countries in their entire careers.
It wasn't just the on-field activities that left Warner fatigued. He learned quickly that his life away from the game would have to change with his greater cricket responsibilities.
"It's so busy," Warner said of his first year as a Test, ODI and T20 player. "It's about keeping a clear mind and trying to be as fresh as I can. I've had to watch little things like picking the right time to go out and enjoy yourself with your mates or have a beer with the guys. It's important, that stuff, and I probably didn't realise how much actual cricket I was playing and the intensity.
"I was a bit worn down last year. In the 12 one-dayers that we played I didn't score any runs in the first six or seven games. I had to walk away a little bit and just say to myself that I had to clear my mind. I had put a little bit of pressure on myself thinking that you can come out and score runs every game but you can't.
"I came out and scored a hundred in Queensland and a hundred in Adelaide. Here I am almost a year later I have not missed a game. Touch wood I can keep going and keep scoring runs for Australia. I'm feeling better than I was last year. It does become mentally exhausting not being able to see your mates and enjoy yourself at home in the periods like this. But we choose this sport, we love this sport and I love doing it."
Warner's omnipresence in the national side over the past year has made him a leader in the squad, regardless of his relative inexperience. Last summer, he was handed the temporary vice-captaincy of the one-day team and although the leadership was given to Ricky Ponting instead of Warner when Michael Clarke was injured, the coach Mickey Arthur spoke of Warner as the kind of person who could lead Australia in any format in future.
When Ponting retired from all international cricket after the Perth Test against South Africa, Arthur spoke to some of the Test players about needing to step into leadership roles in the absence of Australia's most experienced player. Warner was one of those men.
"I'm playing all three forms so I should be considering myself as a leader," Warner said. "They've had a word to me about trying to be the senior person now and trying to set standards of our Australian way. Whether we're doing a fielding drill or we're batting out the back, just keep in mind that we're training our backsides off and make sure everyone's doing the right thing."
For Warner, that is as much the case when he is at the crease as anything. The opening partnership between Warner and Ed Cowan has developed to the point where they have scored the most runs of any opening pair in Test cricket during the past year. Warner remains the kind of player who can demolish an attack, a trait that the Australian camp does not wish to alter, but he also knows that there are times for patience. Cowan helps him identify those moments.
"Ed's the type of guy, he takes the brains out there in the middle with us," Warner said. "He's the one who keeps me cool. He can identify periods where if I'm going and it's close to lunch, he'll just say to me 'still play your shots but just be mindful that lunch is around the corner'. You need the brains there. He's a guy who's very smart. I reckon he's too smart for cricket.
"He keeps a cool head out there all the time. When he's under pressure he finds a way to block out everything that's around him and just bat. Ed has just shown himself with his character and the strong mind that he has, that he can just block the littlest things out. It's an amazing thing to have him at the other end to help guide you through."
Warner and Cowan first came together on Boxing Day last year, when Cowan debuted as the replacement for the axed Phillip Hughes. In the corresponding match this summer, Hughes will slot in behind them at No.3. As a unit, the trio hopes to settle into a rhythm that can take Australia through next year's tours of India and England and the home Ashes that follows, and Warner said the top-order men would be setting themselves exacting standards.
"The most important thing for us [is] getting through that tough [new-ball] period," he said. "If we can get through to lunch without losing more than one wicket, we think that our job's been done. It's about consolidating and going on with it and trying to get big hundreds. If we're facing 200 balls we should be a hundred. If we can keep meeting our own standards we should be fine."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here