How David Warner used criticism to build a lasting legacy

David Warner for Australia in ICC T20 WC 2024
David Warner for Australia in ICC T20 WC 2024 (PC: X)

It was 1am in the morning when David Warner responded to the message in November 2021. Australia had just won the T20 World Cup, and he hadn’t seen his phone with all the celebrations going on. Soon after he came online and saw the interview request, he called back. “I am so happy, mate,” he said, struggling to keep emotions in check. “Can’t tell you how happy and relieved I am at the same time.” With the Australians flying back early morning on a charter flight, he wanted to do the interview then itself, and with raw emotions pouring out, the timing couldn’t have been better.

“It is one of the happiest moments of my life,” he told me. “I had spoken to you before the tournament started, and had told you that we are ready. We had a very good team and every member was determined to leave a mark. Thereafter, we peaked at the right time, and once we peaked and everyone started to do their part, there was no looking back. We have an amazing bunch here, mate, and I can’t tell you how happy everyone is at the moment.”

Tuesday, June 25, wasn’t the same. Australia are out of the T20 World Cup in the aftermath of their loss to India. Warner did not have a memorable tournament. But that’s what sport is all about, and no one knows it better than David himself.

“We play to entertain,” he once said to me. “We play to push for excellence. Whether we win or lose, I have always worked the hardest and trained the hardest. Not a single day did a miss. Sport is a great leveller, and if you are true to the sport and keep working hard, you will always have a chance. I just wanted to keep working the hardest and stay true. I am glad it worked out for me.” Now, as he looks back, I am sure he will do so with complete satisfaction at an innings well played.

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David Warner
David Warner (PC: X)

It was just days after Warner had punched Joe Root in a pub brawl in Birmingham in 2013 that I got to know him well. As cricket’s bad boy, Warner was everyone’s target and there was talk of a ban and more. Some even said his career was over, and Warner would find it impossible to make a comeback. In fact, that was when I first spoke to him at length. The first thing that struck me was the steel inside. He was nervous and vulnerable, yes, but there was a deep conviction that he would make it big and make a telling contribution to Australian cricket. Adversity has always brought out the best in Warner, and not only did he make a stellar comeback after ‘Punchgate’, he was soon Australia’s go-to player across all three formats.

Warner has always been a man blessed with extraordinary talent. But what stands out in his story are the hard yards he put in each time people doubted him. Just like the tussle between bat and ball, Warner has forever waged a battle with his critics. Criticism is what has driven him to greater glory. Despite all his flaws, he sought perfection in the 22 yards and that’s the legacy he leaves behind as he bids farewell.

Having followed his career closely, I can say that Warner has always sought immortality in adversity, and stands as proof that tough situations don’t last, but tough people do. Over 100 Test matches are proof. So are the World Cup wins. Imperfect, and happily so, Warner stands as a symbol of the new perfect. From adversity to triumph sums up a career like no other. Go well, mate, and happy retirement.

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