David Warner joins an elite group when he plays his 100th Test match against the South Africans from Boxing Day. But not all are overjoyed, including our own KEN PIESSE.
The acclamation for any Australian cricketer reaching 100 Tests should be loud and prolonged. It is a massive milestone, but in David Warner’s case, not all are true believers; including me.
His Australian soil-Test career has a fortnight to run. And it may very well end altogether come day 3 or Day 4 at Sydney, depending on how much spice is in the track.
Personally I wouldn’t take him to India in February where his record is poor. Or to England, from June, where he averaged under 10 three years ago.
Like a Dennis Lillee, a generation before him, Warner’s maverick ways tended to be forgiven, as he bullied even world-class attacks with his eagle eye and swinging arms.
The great South African A B de Villiers accused Warner of cheating in the opening Test in South Africa four years back. Warner and the equally fiery Quinton de Kock had to be separated a Test later. ‘The Cannon’, as he was known to many of his older teammates, was rapidly plunging into an impenetrable abyss.
The fallout from Warner’s actions in cajoling his young batting partner Cam Bancroft to scuff the ball with sandpaper late in Cape Town created mayhem on and off the field.Embed from Getty Images
Has he ever REALLY apologised? Or shown genuine contrition?
Has he ever thought about saying something like: ‘Hey I’m sorry. I mucked up. I was wrong. Totally wrong. I wish I could have those five minutes all over again.’
Greg Chappell did when he thought about the chaos created by his younger brother Trevor bowling an underarm at the MCG decades ago. He said he didn’t deserve to be Australia’s captain. It was a blotch on an impeccable career, but we forgave him.
We also forgave Shane Warne for his dalliances with John the bookmaker and taking the banned diuretic. Yes he’d been told of the many drugs not to be touched but he hadn’t listened in – or bothered to make a phone call to double check what was right and what was wrong. He told Michael Parkinson once he was not the sharpest tool in the shed, and we all accepted that. He lived in this amazing bubble and simply didn’t like having a double chin.
Warnie is among the who’s who of iconic Australians to reach 100 Tests.
This week, Warner needs to say how lucky he is to be in the same ‘club’.
His 12-month Test suspension was absolutely warranted. As was Steve Smith’s.
Warner and his management can buck all they like about his captaincy ban. But he was the instigator of the greatest scandal in Australian Test history. His behavior was chequered at best. Captains must also be ambassadors. Squeaky clean, inspirational and stay out of energy debates.
For years Warner was Australia’s so-called ‘attack dog’, responsible for much of the on-field vitriol which tarnished the game.
I applaud his efforts in being able to return so successfully to Test cricket and rebuild his career.
For one who was little more than an ODI slogger, he has had an extraordinary impact at red-ball level. Even the NSW selectors were so doubtful of his abilities that they made him sit out virtually a whole summer, in 2010-11 before recalling him for a late-season match in Melbourne. Batting down the list, he made 99 before holing out to mid-off to an inconsequential part-time bowler. Never before had I seen a dismissed player so disappointed. He went to the boundary line and sat in a dug out with a towel over his face for almost an hour. He’d so wanted to prove his detractors wrong.
It was a pivotal moment in his emergence, however. Within a fortnight, he broke through for his maiden first-class ton on his way to becoming a wonderfully attractive, match-winning opener.
All he has to do know, at his 100-game press conference, is look down the camera lens and say: ‘Australia. I mucked up. Please forgive me.’
And we will.
KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. Despite that setback, Ken has written, published and edited 86 books on cricket and AFL football to become Australian sport’s most prolific author.
His latest cricket book is David Warner, The Bull, Daring to be Different with Wilkinson Publishing, out now