David Warner’s must publicized mid Ashes tour diversion in Africa reaped rewards overnight with an explosive 193 runs to his credit against South Africa A on the first day of the first “Unofficial Test”. Batting at number 4 Warner dominated the South Africa A attack after coming in with Australia A in trouble at 2/46. He deserves our congratulations for such a good innings and, in my view, he must stay in South Africa to continue to rebuild his form outside of the focus that comes from playing in an Ashes tour.
I have to concede here: I am not a Warner fan. That said, I want the best for Australian cricket and I think that the worst possible thing Cricket Australia could do both for D Warner the cricketer AND the Australian cricket team is to rush him back to England. I have three reasons for this:
1. Whilst he is in South Africa he is facing test quality bowling without the pressure of needing to perform in the cauldron of the Ashes. Make no mistake: Kyle Abbott and Marchant de Lange, two of the bowlers from South Africa A, are no mugs and both have recorded seven wicket hauls in their limited test appearances to date. More runs in the subsequent games against these bowlers will only build his confidence.
2. I have long wanted David Warner to spend more time playing first class cricket to hone his game against the red ball before he returns to the test team. There is another unofficial test match to be played here and he must play in that game. He has only played in 13 first class games that are not test matches (of which he has played 19) and I have a hunch that the more first class games he plays the better he will get. A season in the Sheffield Shield, a full season, should follow this to help him build his craft.
3. Could there be anything worse for Warner’s confidence than coming back into the squad for the 4th test (it is patently too late for him to be selected for the 3rd test match now) after Australia has, in all likelihood, lost the series and then get a series of low scores? If Jimmy Anderson can exploit Shane Watson’s front pad then you can bet that he and David Saker have a plan they are ready to execute to expose the various flaws in Warner’s technique. The prospect of this is avoided if he stays where he is in Africa.
The rehabilitation of David Warner is only just starting and he is off to a flyer but, to me, the wisest course now would be to keep him away from the Ashes series and keep him playing first class cricket to build up his confidence and form. I am sure he will return a better and more rounded player and the Australian team, if he returns, will be much better for his time away.