Sunday, September 17, 2017

Ian Chappell Column: The big David Warner threat

Australian vice-captain David Warner cools off during a practice session in Chennai on Friday. Pic/PTI
Australian vice-captain David Warner cools off during a practice session in Chennai on Friday. Pic/PTI

Any conversation about which batsmen are currently top-rated in Test cricket begins with "The Big Three"; in order of batting average that's Steve Smith, Joe Root and Virat Kohli.

In referring to The Big Three, it's often noted that New Zealand captain Kane Williamson could easily make it a quartet. Indeed, Williamson should be included as his average is second only to Smith but David Warner should also be there to extend it to a quintet.

The main reason for Warner's exclusion is his record in India. It's not great but then Kohli's in the UK is far worse and the Australian's overall average is similar to that of the Indian superstar.

It's noticeable that on two tours of India, Warner regularly got a start but then lost his wicket. Admittedly, he's got five single-figure scores but in 50 per cent of his 16 innings, he reached double figures without scoring a half-century. On the three occasions he attained the half-century mark he wasn't able to convert to triple figures.

What a record!
That is in sharp contrast to his overall record of converting twenty of his 123 Test innings into centuries.

However, his recent form in Bangladesh — a bowling attack that doesn't match India's in class — provided good results in testing conditions. He scored back-to-back centuries, the first one with the ball turning sharply and bouncing awkwardly. That century was scored in typically flamboyant Warner style; attacking the bowlers and reaching or clearing the boundary regularly.

His next century was Warner's Mr Hyde impersonation. He only reached the boundary five times in an extremely patient hundred that underlined the thought that goes into Warner's batting.

The first time I saw Warner bat in a Champions League game on a slow, low Delhi pitch he tried to bash balls to the boundary. That method didn't work. In his next innings on that same pitch he placed the ball into gaps, relying on timing to score his runs and looked much more at ease.

His failure to score a Test century in India may be playing on his mind but there's no reason he can't achieve success there — he's got the skills. It's more a case of him just getting out when he's set and that can happen to any player. Most cricketers experience a drought period during their career and with the amount of games being played now, if it's only once it's a miracle.

Smart operator
Warner is a very skilful batsman and always has been. Early in his career the talk about him being a T20 hitter was misplaced.

I first saw him bat on television in a T20 against South Africa. As he belted the likes of Dale Steyn around the park, I said to my wife; "This kid can bat." She responded; "What, all the fours and sixes you mean?" "No," was my reply, "it's the way he's adjusted to good deliveries from Steyn."

It's fascinating to discuss batting with Warner. He commentated with Channel Nine in 2015 while his injured thumb repaired and provided interesting insights into Australia's loss in the just completed Ashes series. He talked about Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad's plans to dismiss him and the things he'd done to try and overcome their tactics. He made sensible adjustments during the series.

It was obvious this wasn't a hitter who just trusted his eye and his luck; Warner's a batsman who thinks deeply about his task and just happens to be ultra-aggressive in his approach.

That's one reason why he should always feature in any conversation about the best current batsmen; his approach to the game.

Brave opener
Opening is a demanding position and he's brave enough to take on new ball bowlers in order to give his side an early advantage in the game. Succeeding with that approach deserves to put him among a list of the best batsmen. He's certainly the most watchable.

Having experienced a breakthrough in Bangladesh conditions, Warner's next tour of India may well provide a twist in the tale.

India vs Australia in ODIs: 10 interesting facts in pictures
India vs Australia in ODIs: 10 interesting facts in pictures

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