Australia v South Africa 2008-09 / News

Australia v South Africa, 2nd Twenty20, Brisbane

Warner shows all the right moves in risky business

Peter English

January 12, 2009

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David Warner is a tiny knight in shining armour © PA Photos
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For a day Australia's newest opener experienced life as a movie hero from Warner Bros instead of a member of the Warner family from Sydney's Matraville. It wasn't hysterical every time David walked the streets and he didn't seem to get a marriage proposal - even 89 from 43 balls can't get you a wife that easily in Brisbane - but it was A-list chaos at the airport and team hotel.

In Melbourne he was swamped by cameras as he tried to leave the city where the night before he set up Australia's 52-run Twenty20 victory over South Africa. After landing in Brisbane he was squeezed out a side door in an attempt to escape the attention that shadowed a 22-year-old who is still hoping to make his first-class debut for New South Wales. It was ideal work experience for life with the Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League, where he will head in April for more strange happenings in the game's newest genre.

Now Twenty20 seems to turn people mad outside the subcontinent as well. In the past 24 hours in Australia there have been three shark attacks, a cyclone and a Golden Globe for the late Heath Ledger in the Warner Bros movie The Dark Knight. And David Warner.

He is part of the Warner Siblings group that grew up playing club cricket for Eastern Suburbs, and has beaten most of his brother Steve's junior records. Warner is like the tiny knight who everyone feels like teasing until he lances you with a toothpick, which suddenly feels like a mace.

On the opening night of the limited-overs season he graduated from fringe-festival talent to Twenty20 blockbuster with a boundary-breaking performance. He cleared more fences than Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet while heaving six sixes. There were two in a row from his first looks at Dale Steyn and then a monster strike over midwicket off Jacques Kallis that almost landed in the second tier of the grandstand. Russell Crowe can't throw phones with power like that.

At 170cm Warner is about the same height as Tom Cruise, without the need for high heels to push him closer to the sky. At the moment he is trying for both feet on the ground. It can't be easy. Next week he will go back to New South Wales and aim to play his maiden Sheffield Shield game. Already this could be the best week of his life, or stage one in a major production. In two years he might be a forgotten one-off hero or own the top billing for the next generation. So much for a gentle integration into the national set-up.

There was no time after the game for celebratory drinks, but Warner still looked dazed as he stood in the team hotel the following afternoon. He was unshaven and scruffy in the way normal 22-year-olds are when they have chosen a life outside the office. Replies were mumbled to a set of rapid-fire questions.

Can you score on the offside as well as the legside?"
"If they're going to plant a ball outside off, I prefer the ball there more than anything."

Where do you get your power from?
"It's all to do with timing. I'm a short bloke, so I try to crunch out some weights here and there."

Has it been a whirwind?
"Massively, it's still a dream, I haven't woken up."

Do you want to play Test cricket?
"It's the ultimate goal. As a kid you grow up wanting a baggy green. The baggy blue [for New South Wales] has got to come first."

Do you feel pigeon-holed as a Twenty20 player?
"In a way, yeah, time will tell. I might get a [Sheffield Shield] game this year, I might not.

A week ago he was jumping up and down in a pool after learning he had been picked for Australia and was considering asking his new team-mates for autographs. Over the past day a few of them have taken him aside to counsel him on his dramatic success, but none of the other guys had things happen to them this quickly. Even his idols Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne had to wait years for this sort of attention.

The instant fame did not come with a full-time personal assistant and Warner had to leave the hotel to go and buy his own sushi - through the bag it seemed not to include egg whites and was light on the wasabi. When he placed the package on the carpet nobody tried to steal it to stick on eBay. He might not be so lucky if he backs up his Melbourne thrashing with more fireworks in Brisbane on Tuesday. The poor guy.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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