Warner in form after 'kick up the backside I needed'
David Warner has had frustrating six months, and has been the cause of much of that exasperation himself, but believes he is now in the form of his career and is better off for his wake-up call in England. As the first Test of this Ashes series approaches, Warner is in a vastly different - and more encouraging - place than he was in the corresponding lead-up time to the series in England this year, when he was suspended for punching Joe Root in a pub.
The lay-off cost him his place for the first two Tests and although he returned for the remainder of the series, he was unable to make a significant contribution with the bat and was dropped from the ODI squad for the matches that followed in England and India. But time away from the international team to refresh his mind and body - in part with the help of a sports psychologist - appears to have done Warner some good, if his results for New South Wales since the start of the summer are any indication.
Warner scored three big centuries in the Ryobi Cup, including a mammoth 197 at North Sydney Oval, and followed that with 104 in a Sheffield Shield match at the MCG, as well as a couple of Shield fifties. Whereas he was sent to Africa in July for some game time with Australia A while the team took the field in the first Test in Nottingham, now Warner is ready for the Ashes opener at home as not only one of the team's incumbents, but one of the most in-form batsmen based on the past month.
"I probably haven't been in this form to date in my career. I'm raring to go," Warner said in Brisbane on Tuesday. "It feels like I'm back at home again. I now know you can't take anything for granted and having a kick up the backside is what I really needed. You can go through the motions, two and a half years on the road is quite tough and you don't realise how much you miss being at home and doing your normal routines, going to the beach, going to the movies and whatnot.
"I've learnt how to respect my body. You need sleep to recover a lot and I probably wasn't getting enough sleep. I usually don't like going to bed before 12 o'clock because I've probably played out the game too much in my head, thinking about the training session the next day or the game the next day. I've learnt how to calm down and work a bit more on that with Michael Lloyd, our sports psych.
"We train three, four days leading into a Test match. You take that as a nine-day approach. If you're going to have a drink, or not get as much rest, or not do your recovery process right, you're going to be really sore. And then with the Test matches so close to each other, you don't have that rest period. When you win a Test match you do have a couple of beers after the game ... but if you're doing it three or four days out from a big Test or something, it's going to affect your performance. I've learnt that now and I've come out the other end smiling and actually enjoying my cricket."
It has not all been smooth sailing for Warner since returning home - he was given a suspended one-match ban by New South Wales in early October for skipping a grade cricket match for an afternoon at the races and a private training session. However, Warner described the incident as "a miscommunication" and said he was in a good place throughout the start of the domestic season.
He believes his resurgence has in part been due to a return to his natural, attacking style, a method that he said he had at times moved away from in the Test team. But after working with his batting coach Trent Woodhill recently, and now with the Australia batting coach Michael di Venuto, Warner said he was confident in resuming his usual approach.
"If I just concentrate on looking to score, my defence takes care of itself. I was too worried about trying to be so defensive and then attacking," Warner said. "That's what I worked on when I went back to work with Trent and what I'm working on now with Michael di Venuto. You look at guys like myself, Steve Smith, Nic Maddinson and Phil Jaques in the latter part of his career, who have worked with Trent, that's the philosophy he goes on.
"We talk about intent - if you're not looking to score, I feel that person who's bowling to you has already got the upper hand, because you're looking to defend. I'm at my most vulnerable when I'm looking to defend. If I'm not looking to score - yes, if I look to score and I nick off, so be it, but I've got to be looking to score and have that intent because if I'm not looking to score I have no intent at all."
And it is not only at the crease that Warner is keen to go on the attack. Despite the result of the series in England this year, he believes he senses some anxiety from the England camp for the return campaign.
"I actually think they're probably fearing us. They know that we mean business," Warner said. "I think they know that those little moments that they won were the key to them winning the series 3-0. And we know that those key moments were us losing the series 3-0. We've identified what we need to work on come those key moments again. It's there for us to take it this summer."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here