David Warner: Final Bell Beckons for Once-in-a-Generation Star

File photo of David Warner, at The Gabba ((Image: ICC)

“I did not think I will play one test, leave alone one hundred,” said David Warner, when asked about his state of mind ahead of the 100th Test match. “So you can well understand what it means to me and my family. I feel privileged, humbled and fulfilled.”

Now he has played 109 and is about to take guard for his final three Tests, with all coming together for one final time at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), his home ground, for the New Year Test in January 2024.

In the recently concluded World Cup final, David Warner fielded like a true champion. At his age it was a lesson to everyone watching. “I am 37, mate, and I just love my fielding,” he said from the flight on his way back to Sydney. “Fitness and fielding helps you challenge yourself. It is something I take a lot of pride in. It is something you can control. It is entirely on you to decide how many times you will dive. For me, it is about enjoying myself and fielding is something I absolutely love. When a ball is racing towards you and you are racing towards it to stop it, there is a certain thrill to the whole thing. You challenge your body in doing so. And if you are successful – sometimes you will not be – it gives you great satisfaction.”

Warner loves challenges, and it is fair to ask if Mitchell Johnson, by saying what he has on his show, has done Warner a favour ahead of his farewell series? Having followed his career closely, the answer is that he may well have. Warner seeks immortality in adversity, and knows that tough situations don’t last, but tough people do. There are 109 Test matches as proof. Not the controversies he has been embroiled in. Imperfect, Warner stands testimony, is the new perfect. From adversity to triumph sums up a career like no other.

For Warner, things have been a roller coaster. When he debuted in 2009 with a whirlwind 89 off 43 balls in a T20 contest, he was stamped a white-ball specialist. He wasn’t suited for Test cricket was the argument. Who first made it, we don’t really know. It took Warner two years to break the stereotype and make his red-ball debut for Australia against New Zealand.

People have written Warner off multiple times in his career. When he was sent home following the incident with Joe Root in England in 2013, many thought it was over for him. “I was at my lowest back then,” he said. “That’s when I met Candice and she changed everything for me. I was never a morning person. I had discipline issues. She made me get into a routine. Value my training and my fitness. Instilled the hunger in me that I had lost. Helped me cope with the negativity and I emerged a better person.”

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File photo of legend David Warner as he celebrates reaching his triple century versus Pakistan in Adelaide on November 30, 2019.
(Image: ICC). 

With most, such things happen once. With Warner, the nightmare repeated itself in 2018 with Sandpapergate. The decision not to allow Warner to play IPL 2018 was the last straw. When we had spoken then, I could barely hear his voice. It was as if I was speaking to a ghost. “I am not sure what I need to do or should do,” said a devastated Warner. “I don’t know if this is the real me. I have a family to look after, and that’s all I want to do. There are people outside the house every single day and it is tough, mate.”

His kids were very young, and one could only imagine what the family was going through. Yes, he had not cried in public. Put on a bold face. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t hurting. He was. Anyone would. And here was someone who aspired to captain Australia and was at the top of his game. All of a sudden, he was told he would never be captain, and it wasn’t even certain if he could make it back to international cricket after the ban. All that could go wrong had for Warner.

And yet again, he did not give up. “It was rough,” he told me later. “You know that. But I don’t regret anything. I am not perfect. Never have I claimed I was. You learn and you get better. That’s why we are human. Else, we would be Gods. We play to entertain. We play to push for excellence. In 2018, I can tell you in all honesty I was working the hardest and training the hardest I ever did. Not a single day did a miss. I was batting extremely well in the nets and it was only a matter of time before it all started to work out. So yes, while it hurt, I knew I would have another opportunity. Sport is a great leveller and if you are true to the sport and keep working hard, you will always have a second chance. I just wanted to keep working the hardest and stay true. I am glad it worked out for me.”

And post-Sandpapergate, the comeback was the best one could imagine. Tons of runs across all three formats, player of the tournament in the 2021 T20 World Cup, and there was no looking back for Warner.

Unlike some others that claim or pretend to be so, Warner will never be perfect. And that’s his charm. He will continue to seek perfection while being imperfect and, in doing so, continue to inspire. 100 Tests don’t come easy. Add his T20 and IPL records and his 50-over performances and you have a once-in-a-generation player. So what if he is not perfect? We would all be happy to reconcile ourselves with such imperfection. As David says, “I have no regrets. Humbled with what life has given me and the family. All I want to do is stay true to my sport and be a good father, and I hope I entertain you all for as long as I can.”

The series between Australia and Pakistan starts on December 14. 

Also Read: IPL 2024: BCCI announces list of players for December 19 auction

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