Focused Warner prepares for action
David Warner says Australia are fully focused on ending their poor record in Twenty20 cricket, and believes they have the strength in depth to cope with all conditions they will face in the coming fortnight in the Caribbean.
Despite ruling the roost in 50-over cricket for the past decade, with three consecutive World Cup victories - including the last tournament in the West Indies in 2007 - Australia's fortunes have not been so great in the shortest format. They were knocked out in the group stages in England last summer, and although they reached the semi-finals in the inaugural tournament in South Africa, they suffered an embarrassment along the way when they were defeated by minnows Zimbabwe.
That result was revisited earlier this week, when Zimbabwe inched to a thrilling one-run victory in the teams' opening warm-up match in St Lucia, but Warner demonstrated the extent of his own form with a rollicking 72 from 49 balls, including five sixes. He followed that up with 51 from 41 balls in a 101-run win against the Windward Islands on Thursday, and is ready to carry that momentum into their first fixture of the tournament, against Pakistan on Sunday.
"It's been a good lead-up for myself with a couple of half-centuries in the games just gone," Warner told Cricinfo. "I don't want to waste my runs in the warm-ups, but it's always good to get them under the belt, and I hope to put in a good performance on Sunday. As a team, we are aware of our shortcomings in Twenty20 cricket, but we've played a lot in Australian cricket in the last couple of years, and we know we've got the resources to take it on this year and win."
Despite the setback against Zimbabwe, Warner believed that the experience would serve as a timely wake-up call, and felt that Australia would be better prepared for future contests now that they had had a chance to gauge the West Indian conditions. "Twenty20 is a funny game," he said. "Anyone on their day can come out on song and roll a few teams over, or be a superstar with the bat. We're looking forward to the contest, we've got the depth in bowling and batting to take on any side in this tournament, and we hope to do that.
"We didn't bowl too well that day and they got away from us, but we played positive cricket right up to the end," he added. "The pitches so far have been pretty slow and low, and we've been playing on big grounds with a lot of wind around, so we've been running a lot of twos and threes which is a bit different for Twenty20 cricket. But the boundaries will come in a bit on Sunday, so our hopes are high and we're a positive bunch. We're looking to put the disappointments of last year behind us, and have a good tournament."
Warner had little opportunity to show what he can do in England last summer, scoring 63 and 0 in his two innings before Australia's elimination, but since then he has expanded his Twenty20 experience with successful stints in the IPL, where he opened the batting for Delhi Daredevils, and with New South Wales, whom he helped to win the inaugural Champions League in India last year.
"Personally, I've learned that time at the crease is vital," he said. "With wickets in hand at the end, you can have an onslaught for the last five or six overs. My game is not just to bat in the top six overs, it's to bat through and maintain my momentum through the innings. If there's a batsman in, we can keep firing and keep wickets in hand, to post a good total or chase a big total. If I can keep up the onslaught, it stands us in good stead."
One slight disappointment for Warner is the lack of recognition from Cricket Australia, who left him off their list of centrally contracted players for 2010-11, despite his integral presence in the shortest form of the game. Earlier this week, Michael Clarke voiced his concerns on the subject, pointing out that playing Twenty20 cricket was the ultimate for players such as Warner who haven't cemented their places in the more established forms of the game.
"You go away on all these trips playing Twenty20 cricket, but the only way to get a contract is by being upgraded to Test or ODIs," Warner said. "I believe that if you play one form of the game for Australia, you should be rewarded with one of those central contracts, but I reckon that's going to come in the next year or so. Meanwhile, any opportunity I get to play for Australia, I'm going to grab with all I can and try to do my best."
Once the World Twenty20 is out of the way, Warner's next international ambition is to earn a place in the Australian 50-over squad for the tour of England in July, and to that end, his forthcoming stint with Middlesex in the Friends Provident T20 could prove invaluable. When he arrives at Lord's next month, he will team up at the top of the order with Adam Gilchrist, and the prospect already has him extremely excited.
"I can't wait," he said. "My aim is to win this tournament, then get over to England to open with an idol of mine, who I've looked up to for many years. In the IPL, I had Virender Sehwag at the other end, another guy who I looked up to, but Gilchrist was my childhood hero so it's going to be amazing and surreal for me. It might feel like a dream at first, but we're both going to be there for business so our aim is to get Middlesex to the final, and win it."
Before that, however, there's the serious business of international cricket to contend with, and Warner can already feel an upsurge of intensity as the competition draws closer. "The word round the camp is we really want to win this," he said. "We're not here for a holiday, we're here to actually win and we're not going home until we've achieved that. Everyone is 100% focused on winning this tournament and hopefully we can this time."
To see Warner and Gilchrist in action this summer, call 0207 432 1000 or visit www.lords.org for Lord's match tickets, or for matches at Richmond & Uxbridge visit www.middlesexccc.com.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo