INTERVIEW David Warner

King of the thrill
D
AVID WARNER’S reputation has never had anything to do with technique. Switch on the Twenty20 action on the telly, watch him blaze a few sixes, batter-bing, batter-boom, job done. Technical? Warner? Come on! And what about analytical? Forget it! And those boys and girls who flood through the gates in the hope that, this night, Warner might just unleash, well they couldn’t care less about technique. Nor are they interested in what Warner’s thinking; they just wanna see how far he can whack it. But things changed in October when, at the T20 Champions League in India, David Andrew Warner became so good at whacking them, that suddenly, he was being talked about as a Test player. On the surface, it made little sense. This guy was switching his grip and his stance, batting at a strike rate of around 200 and generally being the most entertaining six-hitter since Gilly graced the game. That’s not Test cricket, right?
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Master of the T20 universe David Warner is now setting his sights on becoming a force in the longer forms of the game. He talks to Adam Burnett

“Of course he can hit monster sixes, bat left and right handed, all of that, but that can give people the wrong idea,” Brett Lee tells Inside Cricket, having watched his state team-mate’s development from close by. “He’s been unfairly categorised as a T20 player, although I think people are starting to see the light now. I’ve seen a lot of him and I’m convinced there will be a day, very soon, when he’s a Test batsman. I’d probably have him in the team now, somewhere in the top six. He will play Test cricket for Australia.” It’s a giant leap from T20 basher to being considered by a man with 310 Test wickets good enough to wear a baggy green, but the fact is, Warner is much, much more than Australia’s very own sultan of swat. The guy is a thinker. A superb technician. A student of his own game. On the intricacies of wrist position, the importance of balance and footwork and how all these factors affect the way he makes contact with the ball. Just ask him. He could talk underwater on the subject and while it is far less exciting than watching him do his thing in the middle, it’s what makes the man. “He’s no slogger, believe me. He’s a serious, serious player,” Lee continues. “Potentially, he’s

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another Virender Sehwag. And I don’t mean that he can be a bit of a Sehwag. I’m saying he can do exactly the same kind of damage that Sehwag does. “Some of the innings I’ve seen him play in 50-over games have been technically excellent. Watch him hit an on-drive, it’s perfect. He can put his head down when he has to. He’s a tough bugger. People see him take on a fast bowler and hit him out of the stand and think, ‘Wow, what a T20 player!’ That’s all they remember, but there’s more to him. He’ll be getting a Test cap sooner or later.” The experts, Ian Chappell foremost among them, have also identified traits in the lefthander’s batting suited to the five-day game. Warner, Chappell wrote for Cricinfo, “has matured into a highly skilful player who must be given serious consideration for Australian selection in all forms of the game. His balance as a batsman is such that he has been able to adapt his play to all circumstances, and his stroke range is mostly traditional and now becoming more selective.” The man himself identifies a couple of periods in the past 14 months or so that were key to his growth as a batsman. Times that helped him become fully aware of his potential to excel in all forms of the game, despite a lack of opportunity in the Sheffield Shield. Not that confidence had ever been a serious issue for him to contend with; the 25-year-old has always backed his own ability. First up came his response to missing selection for NSW in their opening Shield match of last season – a string of hundreds, including a double, for NSW Second XI. “I knew that the best way to break the ice was to score runs,” Warner says. “I’d been fortunate enough to get picked in the Australian team the previous summer so even though I missed out on

Switching it up with a reverse slog against Sri Lanka

He’s no slogger. He’s a serious, serious player. I’d probably have him in the Test team now. He can do exactly the same kind of damage that Sehwag does”
BRETT LEE
getting into the first Shield side of the season, at the end of the day my goal had been to play for Australia, and that was what I’d done. I’d taken a lot from that.” The mountain of Second XI runs pushed Warner further under the selectors’ noses, to a point where they could no longer ignore his claims for a Shield start. The left-hander knew what had to happen next, and so, “When I got my opportunity in the Shield, I just grabbed it. “I knew I had it in me, that first game when we played the Vics, but lack of pace from Michael Hill got me [for 99]. I was disappointed about that because I’d grinded it out for a good four hours and I’d faced 180 balls, which is a lot of balls that I wouldn’t usually face, because I hadn’t had that much time in the middle – well I hadn’t given myself that much time in the middle – previously. “That was a good experience for me, and the next game I felt real good in the first innings and I said to myself, ‘Look, if you knuckle down, you’re going to score yourself your maiden ton’. It was there in front of me and I took it.” Against Western Australia at the SCG, Warner made 114 in the first innings, and the man who had starred on his T20 debut for Australia before even making his first-class debut had taken one giant leap towards becoming what Lee describes as that “serious, serious player”. National selectors recognised the seismic shift the New South Welshman had made. Perhaps, much like Warner himself, they had been waiting for the breakthrough innings that proved Warner’s technique was as impressive as his big hitting, because after a handful of first-class matches and that lone hundred, he was picked for the Australia A tour of Zimbabwe. It was the second crucial period in his recent development. “I failed in the first couple of one-dayers, but I just knew I had it in me to say, ‘Alright, let’s go at this aggressive, play your shots, and let’s take some calculated risks’,” he recounts of the tour. “I scored a hundred in the [one-day] final and I was very happy with myself, and that was good preparation leading into the four-day games. “Then I had a practice game where I scored 150, and I went into the first four-day game against them and made 48 and 82, and felt real good; the second innings of that we were only
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chasing 140 and I was really hungry to try and get as many as I could. “The next game I really grinded it out – I batted for a day-and-a-half [to make 211]. That was exciting for me because I showed myself that I could do it. And I showed myself what sort of patience I needed to be out there that long. “The wicket was slow and the outfield was slow, but I knew what I had to do to press claims for higher honours.” See, Warner gets it. It’s no secret that batsmen need to score runs, and then score more runs, to make rep teams. But it’s less about the what and more about discovering the how that catapulted him into the Test squad when Ricky Ponting went home from Sri Lanka in September. “The experience I got [in Zimbabwe] taught me a lot about batting time,” Warner says. “Greg Chappell always says to me, ‘The more time you bat, the better you’re going to play. It’ll help you in all forms of the game’. That’s what it is doing at the moment. It’s put me in a different frame of mind where I feel like, when I’m out there, I’m getting myself in and into a really good rhythm. “Previously, it’s not like I didn’t know what I
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Warner celebrates his maiden first-class century at the SCG earlier this year

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was doing out there, it was more like, ‘How do I go on with what I’m doing?’ Instead of playing a silly shot, now I can just respect the ball, and leave the ball, and wait for the boundary ball. Now I’ve actually learnt that. People say that could happen at 21, or it might not happen til you’re 30. “I’ve never doubted myself. I know I’ve got a technique that’s very much my own and I know that I can keep a structure that I can score runs with. I know that I throw my hands at the ball a lot, especially in T20 cricket, but I know when it comes to four-day and one-day stuff, my technique has to be a bit more compact. Your feet have to move a lot more to the ball, you can’t just throw your hands at the ball because it’s moving sideways – so you have to respect everything. “I’ve taken that mentality into T20 cricket as well now, where I’m actually moving everything. I just thought, ‘Hang on, why don’t I do that in T20 cricket, and then everything will flow perfect?’ Now, it’s actually working – I’m in a good frame of mind where batting time, as Greg Chappell says, has actually helped me in the shorter form as well.” And how. It’s no exaggeration to say that Warner’s efforts in the Champions League T20 in

October shocked the cricket world. His incredible 135 not out from 69 balls against Chennai (22 of the runs came while switch hitting as a right-hander) featured eight sixes and put NSW through to the semi-finals. More remarkable though, was what came next; the stocky opener became the first player in T20’s brief history to score back-to-back hundreds, this time blazing Bangalore’s bowlers to all parts for an unbeaten 123 from 68, with 11 sixes. While it was his four-day feats in Zimbabwe that impressed selectors, the rest of Australia – media and supporters alike – were captivated by those two special Champions League innings. For the first time, a batsman’s deeds in the shortest form led directly to a groundswell of support for him to be slotted straight into the Test side. “It’s an exciting summer coming up for me,” he says. “If I can keep scoring runs, who knows what might be in front of me? People are talking about other players being not in form, or possibly retiring, but in your own mind you just have to be patient. You’re in a queue basically – you’ve got extremely talented batsmen and they’re scoring runs. All you can control is what you can control. So you go out there, score runs, do what you have to do and then when your opportunity arises, you have to take it. That’s how cricket is.”

72 hours of mayhem
in the space of three days in october, Warner rewrote the Twenty20 record books with consecutive hundreds
THE CHampions League T20 in october received little media attention in australia until David Warner’s brutal back-to-back hundreds for nsW midway through the tournament. in devastating touch, Warner punished Chennai and Bangalore with 258 runs from 137 balls – 135 off 69 and 123 off 68 – without losing his wicket. The highlighTs  against Chennai, Warner handed out some serious punishment to Doug Bollinger, including one six over midwicket that went out of the ground. Bollinger finished with 0-48 from three overs.  Warner’s 11 sixes in the semi-final against Bangalore was the most ever hit in a Champions League match.  it was the first time a batsman has hit back-to-back centuries in any T20 competition.  in the 135 not out, 22 of Warner’s runs (four 4s and a six) came from his amazing ‘reverse’ shots, which, he said: “i’ve been practicing for the last yearand-a-half now” The raves “Unbelievable. That’s why you want to appreciate all forms because watching him switch hit a few times and bash the ball, that’s exhilarating stuff. i do remember Brendon mcCullum [scoring 158] in the first ipL and at the time it felt like there was a new world. it raised expectations but no one has got close to that until Warner.” – Damien Fleming. “The two innings he played were as impressive an innings as you can ever see. To see what he can do against high-quality bowling, really right and left-handed . . . he’s a very special talent.” – Shane Watson. “For anyone to score successive centuries in Twenty20 cricket is remarkable. But it was the way he played that was most revealing. it was not Warner clearing his right leg and baseball slogging it around the ground. He got to the pitch of the ball and played crisp, effective but essentially orthodox shots.” – Tom Moody.

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