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Enjoy the blockbuster Test opener David Warner till it lasts

Last updated on 12 Dec 2023 | 01:52 PM
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Enjoy the blockbuster Test opener David Warner till it lasts

Some players are not content with good; they strive for the best, and he is just one among them

"As we prepare for David Warner's farewell series, can somebody please tell me why?” former Australian quick Mitchell Johnson minced no words when he wrote in his Sunday column in The West Australian. 

“His past three years in Test cricket have been ordinary, with a batting average closer to what a tailender would be happy with,” Johnson had to add on top of that. 

Since the start of 2020, a complete four years, Warner’s average is 31.8, with six 50s and two hundreds. Amongst the host of openers who have opened in this time frame, Warner’s numbers are underwhelming, with the mean average for the openers being 35.2. 

Even his strike-rate, which sets him apart from the others, reads just 59.4, which is well above the mean of 47.93 but staggeringly less than his career strike-rate of 70.37. 

Sure, Warner is the first person to raise his hand and say, not a pretty return. There’s a big drop-off, and that’s certain. Warner’s numbers aren’t perhaps worthy of putting him on the Test pedestal at the moment, but for that thought to blind your opinion on Warner, the Test opener, could be harsh. 

"Yes, he has a decent overall record and some say is one of our greatest opening bats,” Johnson had to add on to that. 

Now, Johnson isn’t completely wrong yet again. Warner has a decent overall record - 8487 runs, averaging 44.43 with 25 hundreds and 36 50s. That’s just fewer runs than Joe Root and Steve Smith since his debut. 

If anything, that’s only two runs ahead of Virat Kohli and a few hundred away from Kane Williamson’s 7836, all of whom form the Fab Four. ‘Decent record’ is one way of looking at it. 

Now, is he one of Australia’s greatest opening batters? Numbers suggest he is the second-best behind Matthew Hayden, but that’s not even a comparison. Warner has re-defined Test cricket batting at a level that the generation he belonged to failed to understand. 

Warner may never be considered an all-time great in the red-ball format, but his impact will certainly be remembered. The southpaw is a beast at what he does best - demolish bowling units - and that simplicity separates him from the rest of the pack. 

His Test career is one of the most fascinating ones in world cricket. 

“When I got the opportunity to play for Delhi in the IPL and I met Virender [Sehwag] there, he sat me down. 'He said I will be a better Test player than Twenty20 player. And I said to him, 'you're out of your mind’,” Warner revealed to ICC in the aftermath of his 335* against Pakistan. 

12 years later, since his debut, no opener in Test cricket, not even one of the red-ball greats, Sir Alastair Cook, has scored as many runs as Warner, with the gap being nearly 2000 runs. His average is the best for any Test opener (min 5000 runs since 2011), showing how he has been way above the others. 

Even on the attacking front, Warner has left no stone unturned. 

Warner has the best strike-rate for openers (min 1000 runs) in the same time frame, at 70.6. That’s where Warner not only sped past the other contemporaries but sped past them at a full-tilt speed. 

At home, the southpaw averages 58.39, has 19 centuries, five more than the half-centuries he’s had and all of this striking at 73.26. Those numbers are too good to be true and ignored. Even if you look at it from contributing to a team’s win, Warner’s numbers are prolific, with 5190 runs, with 17 centuries and 19 half-centuries. 

It is almost like he’s been a vital cog of Australia’s success over the past decade and been an integral part of the Australian setup that has seen several shifts - from leadership to culture within the dressing room. 

What has made Warner’s career path in red-ball more incredible is how he has been the mainstay of the national team for the longest time. And he’s done all this while elevating the levels of the openers that have batted alongside him. 

Four of the eight openers that have batted alongside Warner during his time as an opener have averaged over 40 (min 5 Tests). Usman Khawaja has been the biggest beneficiary of batting alongside an aggressive Warner, with 1863 runs at an average of 58.21. 

Ed Cowan, Joe Burns, Chris Rogers, and Shaun Marsh are the other openers who have benefitted greatly from the presence of the left-hander. Warner’s aggressive intent at the other end has also provided the other Australian openers, such as Cowan, Burns, Rogers, and Marsh, to go about their things in a rather calm and subdued manner. 

Even Matt Renshaw, Cameron Bancroft, and Will Pucovski have all greatly improved and learned from the southpaw in their careers. 

That’s what makes Warner stand out from the rest of the pack. It is not just his ability to roll over the opponents with his batting that makes him one of the all-time greats.

Certainly, Warner has his own downsides. 

He averages only 31.59 away from home. He has 12 ducks in his career, with six coming in the last four years of his Test career. His average in Asia is 31.70, with his numbers even going below when it comes to clashes in England, where his average nosedives to 26.48. 

But you couldn’t quite question his overall calibre. 

"I think back to Warnie finishing up as a spinner and how many spinners got brought in and shuffled out in the quest to almost try and replicate Warnie,” Australia’s Chief of Selectors, George Bailey, said in the lead-up to the first Test against Pakistan. 

“And I don't think you ever try and replicate someone who's played a role for as long as someone has done it as well as they have, and I'd put David in that category, the way he's opened the batting for Australia for such a long period of time.”

Think of this. 

Imagine this. 

Picture this.

You are watching a Test match; there’s this opener smashing the ball to all parts, and then there’s this opener just taking his own sweet time. 

Who would you wake up early in the morning to watch the sport? 

David Warner is that opener. Enjoy the show till it lasts.

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