David Warner's mere presence makes Australia a better side and fills the other 10 on the park with exuberance and energy, skipper Tim Paine gushed on Wednesday (6 January 2020) as the opener looks set for return to Test cricket when the third match against India begins on Thursday.
Warner missed a lot of action since India arrived as he sustained a groin injury during the second ODI.
He is still not hundred per cent fit but Paine's eulogies bore a testimony to team's desperation to get their opener back in the wake of their batting unit's flop show in three of the four innings so far.
"Hopefully, if he gets in and gets away, that puts pressure back on opposition right away. Regardless of whom we are playing, we are a better team when David Warner is in that team from the runs he scores or the energy he brings into the group," Paine said.
"He protects our middle-order a bit with Marnus (Labuschagne) and Steve coming in. Other guys coming when bowlers are a bit tired, it's an advantage. So David has got a huge role for us," his skipper said even as the senior opener is battling against time to get closer to full fitness.
There were multiple adjectives used by Paine in praise of Warner, who is an enforcer, who can lift the other players with his impact performance.
"David has been awesome. Fills the guys with lot of confidence, He is a player you love having on your side. Always got plenty to say, really energetic, professional and I have always loved playing with him," Paine couldn't stop raving about the man, who was hated by his countrymen after his role in the ball tampering scandal in South Africa came to the fore.
However, Paine refused to believe that Australia's batting formula had gone for a toss during the first two games in Warner's absence.
"I don't think so as batting formula is very individual. You definitely want to bat long periods of time but how you do it is up to the player.
"David is known as a dashing opening batter but if the conditions are not favourable he's got to respect that. In short, he likes to be aggressive and no doubt about that but he has got great hand-eye skills and he can often score quicker than others," the glovesman said.
While Paine said that they won't be naming the squad immediately, he did drop enough hints about young Luke Pucovski making his debut having recovered from concussion suffered during a warm-up game against India A.
"Will has been fantastic as well. He has been out of the bubble for a couple of weeks. He is fresh and batting well in the nets, looks ready to go if he is called upon," said Paine, confirming that if he plays, he will open the batting.
As far as Pucovski's concussion goes, Paine feels that he is holding up quite well and he has no anxiety about him being peppered with short balls.
"Not for me me but there will be anxiety around for anyone who is playing his first Test. Yeah, Will's been hit on the head a few times but he plays the short ball really well. As long as he is comfortable, we are comfortable. He is good to go and that's not a concern for him."
Having risen through the ranks, Paine has a lot of faith in both Pucovski and Cameron Green's cricketing abilities.
"...I love the way he goes about his cricket. He is a bit like Greeny. There is cricket talent and then there is character in the way they go about it. That stands out to me. Their temperament and character. Calm young men with immense skills. Will is bit cheekier than Greeny. Great temperament, in control," the skipper praised the lads.
Paine also indicated that they will not shy away from using the bouncer tactic liberally in Sydney.
"Playing Test cricket is difficult and playing short ball of that pace is uncomfortable if you know someone had weakness in that particular area. It's part of the game. It tests your mettle and shows what you are made up of unless you show otherwise.
"I think short ball is a great option and I think it will continue to happen. That's the tactic we have used and we expect to get plenty of back as well."
Paine admitted that "tension is boiling under the surface" ahead of the third Test after unnamed sources from the Indian camp expressed apprehensions about playing the final match of the series in Brisbane from January 15.
There have been reports that due to strict health protocol rules in the state of Queensland, the Indian team need to undergo another round of hard quarantine in Brisbane during the Test match with initial protocol not even allowing players to venture out of their rooms.
After the Indian board took up the matter, it is understood that players can mingle in a bio-bubble inside the hotel and the Test match is on despite some sharp comments from a couple of state politicians which didn't go down well with the BCCI.
"I think it's boiling away, some stuff is starting to happen," Paine said during virtual media interaction when asked why there has been less than usual chatter other than the Rishabh Pant-Matthew Wade banter at the MCG.
"It will be fascinating not just from cricketing point of view but also the tension boiling under the surface with lot of unnamed sources coming out from their camp as to where they are going to play their fourth Test, where they don't want to go ….So let's see how it goes," the Australian skipper said.
Paine admitted that there will be an element of uncertainty associated with the Brisbane Test if India, a powerful cricket board, wants to press the pressure button.
Asked if he is frustrated with the turn of events, Paine replied: "No inside frustration but a bit of uncertainty because when you hear things like that coming particularly from India, which holds a lot of power in world cricket, its likely that it could happen."
As far as his team is concerned, Paine is clear that it hardly matters if the Test is played in Brisbane or Mumbai.
"For us, we just want to be clear on this Test match, we know the protocols and we know what's expected of us, we will focus on that this week and then whatever happens next week happens and we will adapt to it.
"We are not too fussed as to where the Test is being played and we couldn't care less if you rang up and said that it's in Mumbai. We will get onto a plan and we will go and play."
He however agreed that it has been "unusually tame" start to the series with very minimal verbal banter between the two sides.
"I like it. It's because both teams are just happy to be back playing Test cricket after such a big break. And there's a lot of respect between the two teams no doubt about that. Very competitive sides."
Paine also refused to answer whether the alleged breach of protocol which Cricket Australia failed to prove, would have affected the Indian players.
"I am not very sure and you will have to ask the Indian guys. It hasn't affected us and we have spoken about it again. This year the protocols are different and you don't know whether others teams are breaching or not, we can't control. We can control how we go about it."
On a spectator at the MCG last week, testing COVID-19 positive and SCG also welcoming 10,000 for the 'Pink Test', Paine said that he would like to believe the authorities.
"Not my area of concern. There are people making these decisions at government level and there are health experts, they are all working together to do the best that they possibly can.
"Obviously, we want to get people inside the gates, give people chance to watch international cricket and if they are saying that safe number is 10,000, certainly I am no one to question that. There are people with medical backgrounds and we trust people in those positions making the right decisions. We will go with whatever we are told."