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Stir the pot he may, but there's no denying David Warner's an ODI GOAT

Even at age 37, he continues to perfectly tailor his batting to Australia's specific needs under the unforgiving bright lights of a World Cup

Alex Malcolm
"Everyone keeps writing me off." These were David Warner's words following Australia's win over New Zealand after he had scored 163, 104 and 81 in three consecutive innings in this ODI World Cup.
Asked if he was motivated by trying to prove doubters wrong, Warner added, "Nup. I just make everyone look stupid."
They were odd comments. Because no one in their right mind had ever doubted Warner as an ODI player. There had been criticism of his Test form over the last two years and his numbers over that period but even his doubter-silencing double-century had hardly made anyone "look stupid".
There might have been the odd eyebrow raised back in March when Warner batted at No. 4 in an ODI for the first time in his career on return from a fractured elbow to accommodate Mitchell Marsh and Travis Head. But the eyebrows were raised at Australia's selectors, not at Warner, for thinking that arguably Australia's greatest-ever ODI opener should bat anywhere else.
His ODI form over the last three years has been exemplary. In 33 ODIs since October 2020, he's never once gone more than three innings without scoring a half-century.
While there have been queries about the amount of cricket England have played in 2023 as part of the reason for their early exit from the World Cup, Warner has shot that theory to pieces at age 37. He played a full IPL and six Tests in the English summer before being one of only two players to have played all eight of Australia's ODIs in South Africa and India in the lead-up to the World Cup, where he peeled off a century and four half-centuries including three in a row against India.
On the back of that mountain of evidence, many were predicting he could have a big World Cup given his love of India and the big occasion.
And so it has been proven. Warner, who is starting a long goodbye from international cricket that is planned to be staggered across the three formats over an eight-month period culminating in the T20 World Cup in June next year, is finishing his ODI career in some style with yet another dominant World Cup performance.
Whilst Warner himself might be conflating criticism of his Test place with his ODI place, for no other reason perhaps than to provide fuel in his mind, it is important for those watching not to do the same.
Warner deserves to be recognised as an all-time ODI great. In an era where the format has been left to wither and batters have struggled to find the right tempo, Warner has thrived. Of the 12 players with 22 ODI centuries or more, only AB de Villiers has both a higher average and strike rate than Warner.
Among all the ODI greats Australia has produced, Warner stands head and shoulders above them, with the lack of matches he has played only further highlighting his extraordinary output.
And in World Cups, when the pressure is at its greatest, he has elevated his performance to a level that only the very elite have achieved.
What has been remarkable about this campaign in particular is that Warner has seemed ageless. He is as powerful yet more lithe than when he started his ODI career 14 years ago. Warner and Quinton de Kock are the only two players who are in the top five for both sixes hit (20) and twos scored (24) off the bat in this tournament. His ability to mix power and placement is what makes him so hard to contain.
Warner's adaptability and willingness to move with the times are also what sets him apart from the pack. In 2019, where he was the second leading run-scorer for the tournament, he struck just eight sixes compared to 45 twos. His strike rate was also just 89.36 for the tournament. Australia played a more conservative brand in that World Cup trying to weather the two new balls in swinging English conditions, and he played his role to perfection scoring three centuries in ten games. In this World Cup, he has struck at 105.49 as Australia have been intent on plundering the opening powerplay in every game. And he's played his role perfectly again.
His stroke-play has been as varied and as skilled as at any time in his career, and his batting IQ has reached new levels. Pakistan's Haris Rauf tried to expose Warner around the wicket, as many have in his career, and he flicked him from the top of off stump onto the Chinnaswamy roof. Lockie Ferguson tried to bounce him at high pace in Dharamsala and Warner cut him over forward point, ramped him over deep third and pulled him over backward square for three separate sixes. Aryan Dutt and Netherlands tried to tie him down with offspin in the powerplay, just as they had with de Kock, and Warner cut him for four consecutive boundaries to take him out of the attack in the third over of the match.
His attention to detail is such that he is using differently weighted bats in this tournament, calling for a lighter blade against pace and a heavier one versus spin, to maximise his scoring opportunities depending on who is bowling.
On top of that, his fitness has set him apart. In a tournament played in extreme heat at times, when team-mates and opponents have suffered from cramps and exhaustion, Warner has looked indefatigable. Even in the field, with a throwing shoulder that is not what it once was in terms of power, he has still patrolled key spots in the outfield and taken vital catches for his team.
There will be those who might not miss Warner when he's gone. His bizarre comments about umpiring stats and sub-tweeting team-mate Glenn Maxwell regarding the Delhi light show are further proof that he is forever willing to stir the pot.
But Warner's exceptional ODI career might come to a close after Thursday's semi-final or Sunday's final, and it would be stupid not to appreciate it.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo