December 16, 2011

There's something about Warner

From one-trick slog pony to Test cricketer - and, as always, the children knew first
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At ten past three last Sunday at Hobart's rainswept, near-empty cricket ground, David Warner let loose a straight drive like the one Sunil Gavaskar used to play, except Gavaskar played his with such bowler-monstering regularity that the commentators invented a name for it. The "bowler's-back drive" - because no sooner had the ball left the bowler's hand than that's where it was, back at him. Warner dispatched his version with still feet and a lightning wrist snap. It rolled right of bowler Tim Southee and kept rolling, even though the grass was wet, taking his score from 25 to 29.

The afternoon before that, a straggle of children huddled boundaryside around TV commentator Mark Nicholas. Try as he might to interest them in chat about fried chicken and the android wondrousness of Channel 9's U-Be-The-Umpire phone app, these boys and girls were not for distracting. "Warner," Nicholas sighed finally, suave crinkles of bafflement sweaty on his head - Warner was the thing on their brains. Warner was at that moment a convicted one-trick slog-pony on his third strike as a Test cricketer: 3, 12 not out, 15. But the children knew best, and first, as children occasionally do.

It used to be the way that in the event of humiliating defeat for Australia at cricket the nation's newspapers would gang together and put tennis on the back page instead. Yet in the days since Australia's fourth-innings capitulation to New Zealand for 233, 123 of them Warner's, there has been a flap of panic about the 233 and not a lot of stopping and savouring the 123.

Sixth Australian since the war, we heard, to carry his bat. It felt hard to credit there'd been five innings ripe for comparison with Warner's. When Warner plays at the ball he plays with forearms and wrists. Not till after ball's hit bat do his feet tend to move, resulting in an ungainly toppling towards off, even for his fence-bound shots. This chronology - arms, hands, feet - is roughly the reverse of the batting manual's best advice but steadfastly faithful to Warner's Twenty20 approach, where his stationary feet provide the base and ballast needed for his swivelling hips and high hands to skim the ball Babe Ruth-style into the bleachers.

If your policy is to cherry-pick the batting manual, a lot hinges on which clauses you choose to underline in red pen. And Warner kept the ball along the ground - almost obsessively. He rotated the strike. A flicked single taking him from 53 to 54 was strangely reminiscent of the famous Greg Chappell hip shot, except Warner flicked his from a foot outside off stump; a carpet-scorching single hooked off his throat inched him to 61.

On 64 he hacked and missed outside off. Next ball he hacked again - and hit - so heeding the trusty textbook aphorism that says you forget what happened last ball and treat the next one on its merits. Warner dealt not merely in singles but in old-fashioned threes, seven of them, which is to say a modern-day smorgasbord; two more than Virender Sehwag bothered with in his 309 (three) and 319 (two) combined. Today's lumberjack bats mean a push-and-scamper can reap you only one less run than a boundary at a fraction of the risk. Warner is wiser to these mathematics than most. The sport's high-performance jobsworths label him a "controlled power hitter" in Twenty20; playing Test cricket in Hobart, he resembled more closely a controlled power pusher.

This chronology - arms, hands, feet - is roughly the reverse of the batting manual's best advice but steadfastly faithful to Warner's Twenty20 approach, where his stationary feet provide the base and ballast needed for his swivelling hips and high hands to skim the ball Babe Ruth-style into the bleachers

Amid thickets of tumbling wickets, only Warner could see the trees. On reaching 100 he rejoiced with a brisk air-punch, a leap, a doffing of his helmet, and a salute. Had Channel 9 master control tried squeezing in a chicken ad they'd have missed the next ball. When Warner said afterwards, "It's fantastic but we lost and it's disappointing," the words smelled like truth. He said, too, that what he'd done had yet to sink in. There's a sense, more widely, even now, that it still hasn't; a sense of reluctance to believe. If we are right about the Yeti and the Tooth Fairy, must we not be right about Davey Warner too?

Twenty-six summers ago there arrived a cricketer with a buzzcut and earring - scarcely a cricketer at all, wise men tut-tutted, though the young people seemed to like him. Matthews was his name. Stupendous to say, he carved out a streetfighter's hundred at the Gabba. And another in calamity in Melbourne. Then one more, for luck, in Wellington. Children clapped when he came on to bowl his offbreaks. Magazines hoisted him on their covers. The board appointed him third selector - "National selector! That's a big rap, man" - for a trip to Sharjah and he seized the Test-tying wicket in Madras. Finally the wise men threw up their hands. "He is the one person now entrenched in our game," wrote Bill O'Reilly in the Sydney Morning Herald, "who possesses the divine touch that will fill cricket grounds… I congratulate all those kids who beat me so smartly to the point."

Three hours after Warner's innings was over I wandered down behind where the number 96 tramline runs, to Lindsay Hassett Oval, where a scruffy mixed-ages match was underway on a matting wicket, the red shirts against the grey shirts. I saw a chinaman bowler bowl; a sticky-fingered slips catch; a slog-sweep for four. I saw a cricket country's future and it looked in shipshape health. After about 10 minutes a boy pounced on a ball a foot outside off stump and flicked it round the corner, sort of like the famous Greg Chappell hip shot, sort of like something else. The boy holed out. Pretty soon, though, someone's going to have to think up a name for that shot.

Christian Ryan is a writer based in Melbourne. He is the author of Golden Boy: Kim Hughes and the Bad Old Days of Australian Cricket and, most recently Australia: Story of a Cricket Country

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY RandyOZ on | December 18, 2011, 2:40 GMT

    Probably the most promising talent in world batting along with Darren Bravo. THis guy is the next Hayden and already looks better than all English batsmen including the highly overrated Ian Bell.

  • POSTED BY Stark62 on | December 17, 2011, 21:43 GMT

    I don't think T20 players will be suitable for Tests like Warner because he already had an outstanding average of 61.83 in FC cricket which, clearly shows his got the skills for the longer format.

    For example; Pollard is a great T20 player but realistically can he play Tests? I don't think so!

  • POSTED BY Rahulbose on | December 16, 2011, 19:50 GMT

    It is early days to tell. But one wonders is this the future, players graduating from T20 to play test matches. Warner though could be an one off, his batting in the test match had no shades of T20 play. And as with other unorthodox players, early success can be misleading. He will face tougher challenges as teams work out his strengths and weakness.

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 15:27 GMT

    if warner can be 50 percent as good as sehwag then its great job done sehwag scores in sa debut series green top 1match in test hundred than in england green top hundreds and fifties debut series debut series australia first match 195 first day smashed scored against murli mendis turner 201 smashing in world cricket even tendulkar lara has not a kind of impact like sehwag 201 in lanka turner againstmurli mendis strikerate of 80 cant rememberanyone guy averaging 53 strike rate 84 once in a lifetime guy warner can benext sehwag but can take a time selectors mustkeep faith in him but beware of copaying sehwag because he is just out of the world

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 13:48 GMT

    fatboy dinsh chandimal is nothing in comparison to talent of kohli and warner edwards is exciting akmal has not proved in tests even in one days only one hundred kohli 8 hundreds in 65 matches average 47 rohit sharma is talented than most of these guys with dwayne bravo ala lara and rohit sharma sachin clone new lara and sachin are there we will miss both lara and sachin

  • POSTED BY YorkshirePudding on | December 16, 2011, 13:35 GMT

    @Kaze, sorry, however, technically its his debut series, it was his second test, I missed the first Test scorecard.

  • POSTED BY jonesy2 on | December 16, 2011, 13:30 GMT

    Sir_Freddie_Flintoff --- while i cant take you seriously first off because of that name. hughes will become a better batsman than every pommy batsman, what does that tell you?

  • POSTED BY HatsforBats on | December 16, 2011, 12:14 GMT

    Is it just me or is there something very Katich-like in the way that Warner roles his wrists through his cover drive?

  • POSTED BY Kaze on | December 16, 2011, 11:49 GMT

    @YorkshirePudding That wasn't his debut.

  • POSTED BY YorkshirePudding on | December 16, 2011, 11:34 GMT

    Warner looks a good opener, and a lot better than Hughes, if partnered with Watson or Marsh that might create a good stable opening pair that the Australians missed in the Ashes once Katich was out with injury. Its also a little too early to say if hes the real deal, but a 100 on debut is a good way to start a career. I'm looking forward to see how he performs in the run up to 2013, as it looks like hes got something about him.

  • POSTED BY RandyOZ on | December 18, 2011, 2:40 GMT

    Probably the most promising talent in world batting along with Darren Bravo. THis guy is the next Hayden and already looks better than all English batsmen including the highly overrated Ian Bell.

  • POSTED BY Stark62 on | December 17, 2011, 21:43 GMT

    I don't think T20 players will be suitable for Tests like Warner because he already had an outstanding average of 61.83 in FC cricket which, clearly shows his got the skills for the longer format.

    For example; Pollard is a great T20 player but realistically can he play Tests? I don't think so!

  • POSTED BY Rahulbose on | December 16, 2011, 19:50 GMT

    It is early days to tell. But one wonders is this the future, players graduating from T20 to play test matches. Warner though could be an one off, his batting in the test match had no shades of T20 play. And as with other unorthodox players, early success can be misleading. He will face tougher challenges as teams work out his strengths and weakness.

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 15:27 GMT

    if warner can be 50 percent as good as sehwag then its great job done sehwag scores in sa debut series green top 1match in test hundred than in england green top hundreds and fifties debut series debut series australia first match 195 first day smashed scored against murli mendis turner 201 smashing in world cricket even tendulkar lara has not a kind of impact like sehwag 201 in lanka turner againstmurli mendis strikerate of 80 cant rememberanyone guy averaging 53 strike rate 84 once in a lifetime guy warner can benext sehwag but can take a time selectors mustkeep faith in him but beware of copaying sehwag because he is just out of the world

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 13:48 GMT

    fatboy dinsh chandimal is nothing in comparison to talent of kohli and warner edwards is exciting akmal has not proved in tests even in one days only one hundred kohli 8 hundreds in 65 matches average 47 rohit sharma is talented than most of these guys with dwayne bravo ala lara and rohit sharma sachin clone new lara and sachin are there we will miss both lara and sachin

  • POSTED BY YorkshirePudding on | December 16, 2011, 13:35 GMT

    @Kaze, sorry, however, technically its his debut series, it was his second test, I missed the first Test scorecard.

  • POSTED BY jonesy2 on | December 16, 2011, 13:30 GMT

    Sir_Freddie_Flintoff --- while i cant take you seriously first off because of that name. hughes will become a better batsman than every pommy batsman, what does that tell you?

  • POSTED BY HatsforBats on | December 16, 2011, 12:14 GMT

    Is it just me or is there something very Katich-like in the way that Warner roles his wrists through his cover drive?

  • POSTED BY Kaze on | December 16, 2011, 11:49 GMT

    @YorkshirePudding That wasn't his debut.

  • POSTED BY YorkshirePudding on | December 16, 2011, 11:34 GMT

    Warner looks a good opener, and a lot better than Hughes, if partnered with Watson or Marsh that might create a good stable opening pair that the Australians missed in the Ashes once Katich was out with injury. Its also a little too early to say if hes the real deal, but a 100 on debut is a good way to start a career. I'm looking forward to see how he performs in the run up to 2013, as it looks like hes got something about him.

  • POSTED BY Javicab on | December 16, 2011, 10:44 GMT

    To "Sir Freddie" Warner and the other young guns are coming to get you. How arrogant to think that he will be easily humbled by the bowlers from the UK. How long have you held the ashes? 2 years. How long did Australia hold tha ashes last time? 16 years. A long way to go England, so don't get so arraogant.

  • POSTED BY AJ_Tiger86 on | December 16, 2011, 9:55 GMT

    Haha, weren't the exact same things said about Philip Hughes too, when he scored double hundreds against Steyn and Morkel in 2009? Hughes also averaged over 60 in First-class cricket. But then he got absolutely DESTROYED by Jimmy Anderson and Co. Now, his test career is pretty much over. Wait until Warner faces England in England in 2013. The exact same thing will happen to him too.

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 9:52 GMT

    Yep, and when Hughes had a great start with back to back hundreds, he was being called the next Bradman. Premature is an understatement. Lets rather ask why Warner only has 13 first class games at 25 instead shall we?

  • POSTED BY inefekt on | December 16, 2011, 9:51 GMT

    FatBoys, a player's first class average includes all his test match innings.

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 9:07 GMT

    Doogius, Clarke doesn't have problems with his players????? Does the name Katich or Symonds ring a bell?

  • POSTED BY Sri_Iyer on | December 16, 2011, 8:14 GMT

    Excellent article. Maybe too soon to be talking of greatness, but Warner seems destined to be Australia's version of Sehwag. Little coincidence that they play together in the IPL. They must have discussed how to destroy bowling attacks around the world. Go Warner.. wishing you the very best in your Test career

  • POSTED BY Percy_Fender on | December 16, 2011, 7:24 GMT

    I can understand the great sense of relief in all Australians at having seen Warner come good in Tests because of the shakiness of their batting line up. But I was always sure that Warner would do well. He has a mindset which causes him to be aggressive which calls also for courage and hand eye co-ordination. He is daring.In fact he is very similar ti Sehwag and I am sure he will do better than Hughes whose retention I fail to understand. Warner is a big innings player ans will last long because hehas played in the sub continent ansd seems alright against spin. He is a decent bloke as well. So I wish him luck after Feb 2012.

  • POSTED BY RNikh on | December 16, 2011, 7:04 GMT

    Superb article. Superb talent-David Warner. Look out in the boxing day test.

  • POSTED BY donda on | December 16, 2011, 6:56 GMT

    Warner missed the test cricket trick that you cannot give tail ender to play that many balls in last wicket partnership. But still it was great great effort by warner , in my eyes he could use his brain in better way in that condition but he did not and lost the match. Warner did show the substance and class of classic australian batsman. Which is good.

  • POSTED BY Doogius on | December 16, 2011, 6:43 GMT

    I hope the comparison to Greg is wrong. Greg basically got on the wrong side of AB and paid for it. He didn't play anywhere near the number of tests he should have. Good luck Davey, at least we know Clarke doesn't have problems with his players :)

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 6:05 GMT

    I have been maintaining in all my earlier posts that Warner has a much better technique than Hughes and should open for Australia. Indians have seen a lot of Warner in the IPL and of course western scribes will scoff at anything that does not happen in front of their own eyes and hence had branded him a t20 player which he was , initially. Well his counterpart McCullum too has done wonders in t20 but is still opening the batting. Warner if persevered with can score more runs than Michael Slater and is a fantastic fielder to boot. Sehawag had tipped him to play for Australlia and he knows a thing or two about batting in an unorthodox manner. In fact Warner has opened and scored as quickly as Sehawag for the delhi daredevils. Warner is good, attractive and will bring the crowds in . I hope he does well for himself and Australia. sridhar

  • POSTED BY D-Ascendant on | December 16, 2011, 5:54 GMT

    Bravo, Christian, bravo. I wish I could bat like Warner. But more than that, I wish I could write like you.

  • POSTED BY Stevo_ on | December 16, 2011, 5:54 GMT

    Already massively depressed about Australian cricket, these type of articles depress me further. A player hits one score and suddenly he is the next Don bradman - soul shattering stuff

  • POSTED BY FatBoysCanBat on | December 16, 2011, 5:51 GMT

    This guy looks the goods and a first-class average of 60 [not including Tests] through 17 innings doesn't lie. @Jonesy2: You could add Kirk Edwards, U Akmal, K Williamson and Dinesh Chandimal to your list also.

  • POSTED BY jonesy2 on | December 16, 2011, 5:15 GMT

    special special player. loving the new breed of probable greats; warner, kohli, bravo..

  • POSTED BY Patjb on | December 16, 2011, 5:02 GMT

    I was feeling the exact same. Cummins got headlines, Pattinson, and then Warner.... and noone blinked! Perhaps he has something that no other batsmen has had and so we can't recognise it yet. Sehwag has recognised something in him and that say a lot!

  • POSTED BY gzawilliam on | December 16, 2011, 5:01 GMT

    Christian it was a great article.. Yet im still curious on who you think has a better batting technique than warner in the current australian team? Clarke? - who flashes at ball with his low back bent over a stiff front knee(no wonder his back is screwed). Ponting? - who seems unable to stop himself falling over his front pad and have his head a good metre away from where the ball is arriving? haddin who seems to think he is sehwag more and more when the situation is tight?

    Imo hussey , khawaja and warner have the most sound technique of the lot. Warner at least puts the foot to the pitch of the ball when driving. Not like clarke.

    Also i think we read something similar about phil hughes a few years back. And look where thats come. Warner may be the shining light of our new generation. The need for technique has increased lately with the way the ball has been swinging. Maybe warner should of headed the batting clinic.

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  • POSTED BY gzawilliam on | December 16, 2011, 5:01 GMT

    Christian it was a great article.. Yet im still curious on who you think has a better batting technique than warner in the current australian team? Clarke? - who flashes at ball with his low back bent over a stiff front knee(no wonder his back is screwed). Ponting? - who seems unable to stop himself falling over his front pad and have his head a good metre away from where the ball is arriving? haddin who seems to think he is sehwag more and more when the situation is tight?

    Imo hussey , khawaja and warner have the most sound technique of the lot. Warner at least puts the foot to the pitch of the ball when driving. Not like clarke.

    Also i think we read something similar about phil hughes a few years back. And look where thats come. Warner may be the shining light of our new generation. The need for technique has increased lately with the way the ball has been swinging. Maybe warner should of headed the batting clinic.

  • POSTED BY Patjb on | December 16, 2011, 5:02 GMT

    I was feeling the exact same. Cummins got headlines, Pattinson, and then Warner.... and noone blinked! Perhaps he has something that no other batsmen has had and so we can't recognise it yet. Sehwag has recognised something in him and that say a lot!

  • POSTED BY jonesy2 on | December 16, 2011, 5:15 GMT

    special special player. loving the new breed of probable greats; warner, kohli, bravo..

  • POSTED BY FatBoysCanBat on | December 16, 2011, 5:51 GMT

    This guy looks the goods and a first-class average of 60 [not including Tests] through 17 innings doesn't lie. @Jonesy2: You could add Kirk Edwards, U Akmal, K Williamson and Dinesh Chandimal to your list also.

  • POSTED BY Stevo_ on | December 16, 2011, 5:54 GMT

    Already massively depressed about Australian cricket, these type of articles depress me further. A player hits one score and suddenly he is the next Don bradman - soul shattering stuff

  • POSTED BY D-Ascendant on | December 16, 2011, 5:54 GMT

    Bravo, Christian, bravo. I wish I could bat like Warner. But more than that, I wish I could write like you.

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 6:05 GMT

    I have been maintaining in all my earlier posts that Warner has a much better technique than Hughes and should open for Australia. Indians have seen a lot of Warner in the IPL and of course western scribes will scoff at anything that does not happen in front of their own eyes and hence had branded him a t20 player which he was , initially. Well his counterpart McCullum too has done wonders in t20 but is still opening the batting. Warner if persevered with can score more runs than Michael Slater and is a fantastic fielder to boot. Sehawag had tipped him to play for Australlia and he knows a thing or two about batting in an unorthodox manner. In fact Warner has opened and scored as quickly as Sehawag for the delhi daredevils. Warner is good, attractive and will bring the crowds in . I hope he does well for himself and Australia. sridhar

  • POSTED BY Doogius on | December 16, 2011, 6:43 GMT

    I hope the comparison to Greg is wrong. Greg basically got on the wrong side of AB and paid for it. He didn't play anywhere near the number of tests he should have. Good luck Davey, at least we know Clarke doesn't have problems with his players :)

  • POSTED BY donda on | December 16, 2011, 6:56 GMT

    Warner missed the test cricket trick that you cannot give tail ender to play that many balls in last wicket partnership. But still it was great great effort by warner , in my eyes he could use his brain in better way in that condition but he did not and lost the match. Warner did show the substance and class of classic australian batsman. Which is good.

  • POSTED BY RNikh on | December 16, 2011, 7:04 GMT

    Superb article. Superb talent-David Warner. Look out in the boxing day test.