Much has been made in the lead up to the current test match being played at the Gabba about question marks, alleged or otherwise, over the form of Ed Cowan. In the context of Cowan’s sparkling century today, has the time now come to move one’s withering gaze to the other end and directly at the form of David Warner?
At the outset, I must concede that I was not a fan of Warner’s initial elevation to the Test team. I thought it was all to quick and in part was based on Warner’s marketability rather than his technique. Equally, based on form last year I was moved to concede that I had been narrow sighted in my early assessment of Warner’s elevation to the top squad after he impressed with a gritty century in his second game in Hobart.
The steady tick of time and further consideration of Warner’s play in more recent times reveals that maybe my initial assessment was right and now is the time to be considering his position in the team.
Three key factors are in play in making any consideration of this issue my view:
First, the statistics: in 10 test matches, Warner averages 39.60 with the willow having made 594 runs in 17 innings. In 2 of those innings Warner scored centuries, including his epic 180 in Perth against the Indians. In 10 of those innings however Warner has scored less than 10.
Second, it has to be acknowledged that Warner has become one of the faces of the game in very short order. This is an issue that vexes me but must be acknowledged because it could well prove very difficult for Cricket Australia to drop Warner without upsetting its commercial partners.
Third, there are some obvious replacements now knocking fairly heavily on the door. Test discards Hughes and Khawaja have had new leases of life in their adopted states, whilst the man presently occupying the number 3 slot in Australia’s order could also do the job at the top of the order should the opportunity arise. These players are all players who have been mentioned as possible replacements for Ed Cowan so why shouldn’t they be considered as possible replacements for Warner?
A question arises here that needs to be considered in the context of this debate: is Warner’s start to his career all that bad compared to those openers that have gone before him? Matt Hayden’s first 10 test matches yielded 413 runs at an average of 25.81 and one hundred. Justin Langer’s first 10 test matches yielded 402 runs at an average of 26.80 and one hundred. Pure numbers suggest that Warner’s start to his career is in fact better than those both of those legends of the game. However, one also must consider that during that span of 10 test matches Hayden was dropped 3 times from the team and Langer was dropped 4 times from the team.
This leads to me to the thrust of my argument in this blog which is this: Warner has the talent to be a top line player for a long time. However, he has not done an apprenticeship in first class cricket before his entry into the test cricket and thus his game is not yet to a state properly refined for the rigours of the top flight of the game. Of his 22 first class games as at today, 10 of those have been test matches. Contrast this to Ed Cowan who is presently playing his 80th first class game of which 72 have been first class fixtures.
Whilst there are two players knocking vociferously on the door in Hughes and Khawaja, the question must be asked as to whether David Warner’s time would be better spent playing first class cricket rather than face the best fast bowlers in the game. Time spent in the best domestic competition in the world would only serve to round the edges of his presently fairly rough game and would, I have no doubt, lead to him coming back a better and more complete player.
Langer and Hayden were dropped, often, and came back stronger having spent upwards of three full seasons in the Sheffield Shield competition. Indeed once they were given time to develop, and dominate, in the Sheffield Shield competition they returned to the “top flight” at the peak of their respective games and then dominated test match cricket too.
I, for one, think that now is the time for Warner to be given time to undertaken a “mature age” apprenticeship in the Sheffield Shield competition, given the quality of replacements waiting in the wings and the current state of Warner’s own form. I know this is an unpopular view, but on form AND in order to make him a better player, there is no time like the present.
I can only hope that the commercial imperatives linked to Warner’s selection do not play a part in any decision regarding his place in the team. It will be a sad day of that is the case.