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David Warner is polarising opinion till the very end

As ever through his career, you can't ignore him as he heads into the T20 World Cup, his last goodbye

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
David Warner was given a guard of honour by Pakistan, Australia vs Pakistan, 3rd Test, SCG, January 6, 2024

David Warner got a guard of honour from Pakistan in his final Test. What will mark his final T20I?  •  Getty Images and Cricket Australia

It wouldn't have been part of the David Warner story without a final little twist to the tale. A late dose of debate and intrigue.
His 15-year international career will finish next month with the T20 World Cup. It has not been the smoothest of lead-ins. His IPL season with Delhi Capitals has become somewhat of a forgettable affair, finishing with scores of 18, 10, 8, 1, 1, a damaged hand, and being left out of the final game.
That, though, is only part of it. On its own the form and injury would have been enough to provoke the usual chatter, but a whole other level has been added by the rapid emergence of Jake Fraser-McGurk, who has taken the IPL by storm.
In reality, barring injury, Warner's position was never in danger, but his lean IPL and the startling performances of Fraser-McGurk have meant that, for one last time, he is polarising opinion. That is probably no bad thing for generating interest around the World Cup in early winter down under, as football codes dominate the airwaves and back pages.
On the day that Fraser-McGurk slammed 84 off 24 against Mumbai Indians, ESPNcricinfo ran a poll about who should be Australia's opening pair at the World Cup. The options: Warner-Travis Head, Head-Fraser-McGurk, and Warner-Fraser McGurk. The Warner-less combination came out on top with a whopping 83% of votes. Recency bias aside, mention the topic on social media and it's rarely long before someone says Warner shouldn't be selected.
Since Sandpapergate, it's been ever thus. Barely has there been a series or tournament where Warner's position has not been part of a debate. Since his comeback in 2019, his averages across formats read: Tests 37.27, ODIs 48.84, T20Is 52.28. The white-ball numbers have remained outstanding. His final international innings in Australia was 81 off 49 in a T20I against West Indies.
Warner's Test farewell was long although not quite as self-choreographed as was made out; if the Ashes had started badly, he might not have made it to Sydney. There were plenty who thought he had overstayed his welcome, but he signed off by averaging 49.83 against Pakistan. The challenge of finding a new opener has been a reminder of only knowing what you've got when it's gone. And for all the online chatter, the reception he was offered at the SCG felt genuine.
The ODI farewell largely slipped under the radar as Warner announced it on the eve of his final Test. A few weeks earlier he had been a central figure in winning the World Cup and it made perfect sense to go out on that high, but even then Warner couldn't resist offering his availability for next year's Champions Trophy in an emergency.
And so it has reached the final, final part. He's out of nick, carrying bumps and bruises, and a rising star is making waves. If Warner doesn't perform at the T20 World Cup and Australia don't make the knockouts, be prepared for his position to be at the forefront of any fallout.
Yet it would be a brave person to bet against Warner in the final few weeks of his international career. In fact, he probably relishes the way events are playing out. Either way, this is the last time that he will be a central protagonist in Australia's story, at least on the field. It's been a wild ride.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo