The same thing happened the next day, and he was removed from the nets again and sent for some more fielding. It was explained again that his cavalier attitude to training was not acceptable and that, if he wanted to be considered for selection in the four-day games, then we expected to see him batting, as opposed to hitting, in the final session.
Warner showed that he had it in him to bat with some discretion in that final session and was duly selected for the first four-day game in Kwekwe, where he made 150 and then finished with a double century in the final game in Harare. The selectors had been vindicated.
Most selection panels didn’t see that discretion in him, so his first-class career was delayed as the debate raged around him about whether he was cut out for Test cricket? The national selection panel put the argument to bed when he was chosen to make his Test debut against New Zealand at the Gabba in December 2011. In the process, he became only the third person in Australian cricket’s 132-year history to have been chosen for his country before making his first-class debut for his state.
While his early innings were disappointing, Warner showed that he was much more than a bash artist when he batted through the innings in an uncharacteristically restrained (for Warner) innings of 123 in a nail-biting loss in Hobart.
Much of what Warner has achieved on the field has been tainted by a string of missteps off the field, which have painted him as an abrasive character. No doubt, he can be annoying, but his dedication to the cause and wanting to become the best player he can be has never been in doubt.
It is important to remember that Warner came from the “wrong side of the tracks”. He did not have the advantages that many of his contemporaries have had. Some of the guys that he went to school with have spent time in jail, so his achievement in representing Australia is huge. That he has accomplished so much is a credit to his positive mindset and love of family and friends.
Those who want to be critical point to the fact that he was expelled from the National Centre of Excellence in 2007 for … wait for it, not keeping his room tidy enough! Interestingly, one of the other players who was expelled at the same time was Aaron Finch, so, thankfully, they both learnt the lesson and tidied up their act.
With Finch retiring from 50-over cricket there is a need for a new white-ball captain. The selectors could do worse than appoint Warner to the role. Firstly, the CA board will have to overturn the overreaching leadership life ban on him for his role in Sandpapergate. He may have been a key figure, but, if the whole story ever comes out, we might realise the absurdity of that decision. Once the three on-field culprits had done their time they all should have been treated equally.
And, let there be no doubt, almost every major cricketing country has used questionable methods to alter the condition of the ball. Call it ball tampering, call it cheating, or call it ball management.
In recent times, a raft of Australian cricket captains – Ian Chappell, Allan Border, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch and one who could easily have been captain, Shane Warne – have raised their voice in support of the ban being lifted. Warne was a great advocate of Warner’s leadership and tactical skills.
And so am I.
Much like Warne, Warner is a lot smarter than those who have only known them via their media persona will ever know. Warner loves the game and has a deep understanding of it.
There is no obvious successor to Finch as leader of the 50-over team. Smith will be considered, but the selectors might prefer him to focus on being the best batsman that he can be. Cummins has enough on his plate and won’t play all three formats consistently. Cameron Green shapes as a leader of the future, but is still finding his way in the white-ball team.
Mitch Marsh is another who will be considered, but he does not have the same strategic instincts as Warner. Marsh has not had international captaincy experience and has had ongoing fitness problems, whereas Warner is one of the fittest cricketers to have represented this country.
I can hear the cries of derision now as to why would we want a flawed character to be captain now? Sure, he has made mistakes, but that is exactly why he should be considered. Nobody is without fault and if we could only select those who had never made a mistake, the position would have been vacant on many occasions in the past.
Warner’s mettle has been tempered by fire. He is a senior player who is committed to the team’s success. A natural leader, he has proven that he is strategically astute in captaincy stints in the IPL, where, in 2016, he helped turn an unheralded Sunrisers Hyderbad into IPL champions.
Everybody deserves a second chance. Warner has shown that he has been prepared to learn from his mistakes.
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