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Geoff Lemon reflects on David Warner's departure from Test cricket, acknowledging his tumultuous and creative career.
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Geoff Lemon reflects on David Warner’s departure from Test cricket, acknowledging his tumultuous and creative career.

Here he is, taking flight after his final Test innings. At first frustrated by being trapped lbw, he suddenly remembers the appreciation and applause that come with a score of 57. Standing tall, he opens his arms to the crowd, taking a full turn as if embracing them all. Afterwards, he is surrounded by the post-game chaos of children running around and colorful streamers, basking in the sunshine. David Warner chats with his daughters and happily fulfills interview requests, content to continue speaking even in retirement.

Many individuals will be pleased to see him leave. This mindset is much more widespread than what was portrayed in the media’s celebration of his last series of Test matches. Only a handful of Australian players have faced as much dislike in their own nation. However, there was also a group of people who were excited for the opportunity to cheer him on as he went to bat, which they had four chances to do throughout his final game. In many areas of this crowd, Warner’s actions have been forgiven, or at the very least, they understood that the moment was bigger and more meaningful than any lingering personal grudges.

The story of Warner’s journey with his baggy green caps, losing and finding them, was a fitting way to start the week. From the very beginning, Warner had a knack for becoming the center of attention. Even before his debut in national T20 in 2009, he was seen as a prodigy from nowhere, a dark horse, and the first player since 1877 to represent Australia in a national match without any prior experience in first-class matches. This was a remarkable success for Greg Chappell’s youth policy, despite its shortcomings. It is difficult to picture any other administrator having the courage to push for this young player’s inclusion in the team, and two years later, with only 11 first-class matches under his belt, to give him the opportunity to play in the Test team.

Warner was selected for his explosive batting skills and he did not disappoint, hitting 180 runs against India in Perth. However, even before this standout performance, he had already showcased his versatility and value as a player. In his second Test, he carried his team with a score of 123 on a challenging pitch in Hobart, leading them to a victory over New Zealand. He also played a crucial role in the Ashes series win in 2013, scoring centuries in two of the three live Tests. Later that same summer, he played a key role in securing a series win against South Africa with two centuries in Cape Town. It was clear that Warner was a gifted batsman.

Throughout his career, there was a noticeable lack of exceptional talent displayed by Warner. This was evident in his verbal language, aggression on the field, and involvement in the Walkabout scuffle. Despite this, there were some who praised these flaws in his character while others condemned them. However, it all came to a head in 2018 during the Cape Town incident. This stain on his record cannot be erased, although it is interesting that there is so much discussion about ball-tampering in a sport where it has always been present and is considered a minor offense. Those who continue to bring up the sandpaper incident whenever Warner’s name is mentioned are holding onto something, as they have made their dislike for him a core part of their identity that they are not willing to let go of.

Warner’s actions were not just limited to tampering, as he also convinced a naive younger teammate to carry out the task without the knowledge or finesse to hide it. He also denied any involvement while his teammate faced the media. Despite this, Warner has yet to give a genuine explanation publicly, even though many have praised his straightforwardness and truthfulness. In most cases, attempting to cover up a wrongdoing is seen as worse than the actual offense itself.

David Warner departs from Cape Town airport in March 2018 after the ball-tampering scandal.

It is impossible to summarize a career solely based on one aspect. This is especially true for a career that includes 112 Test matches, 26 centuries, 22 one-day tons, two World Cups, a T20 victory, and a World Test Championship win. The list of players with more international centuries is quite impressive: Lara, Jayawardene, Amla, Kallis, Sangakkara, Ponting, Kohli, and Tendulkar. Only three players have scored more Test runs as openers: Cook, Gavaskar, and G Smith. And among those who have opened in all three international formats are Jayasuriya and Gayle.

Since 2009, he has participated in every IPL season except for the one where he was suspended. He currently ranks third on the all-time runs list for the tournament with 6,397 runs. He may have played more top-level cricket than any other player in the world since his debut, except for India’s Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. The commitment needed to maintain physical and mental fitness, excel in multiple formats, and constantly be in the public eye while living out of hotels is something that few can truly understand.

For the man who was once a boy heralding the future, something old-fashioned leaves Test cricket with him. The pioneer of the T20 age, the IPL emblem, is also the one who dedicated everything he could to the old style, barely missing Tests with injury, never missing for any other reason except two suspensions, and rather than quitting for the T20 circuit after the second ban, coming back with renewed determination that brought him through his torrid 2019 in England to score a Test triple century and win the Allan Border Medal for Australia’s player of the year.

Australian players find it easier to dedicate themselves to the game when they receive a match fee of 20 thousand dollars and their annual contract could potentially cover the cost of a house in Sydney. However, it is worth noting that throughout his extensive career, nothing was more important to Warner than the opportunity to play the longest and most challenging format of the game. When his baggy green cap went missing, he even started a nationwide search, demonstrating just how much cricket meant to him. In his retirement interviews, he made it clear that this particular sport held great significance to him.

David Warner celebrates taking a catch to dismiss Joe Root during day four of the third Ashes Test at Headingley in August 2019.

“I aspire to attain the baggy green, which is considered the highest achievement in Australian cricket,” he stated. “To the young players, I offer this advice: never give up on your dreams and always believe in yourself. Test match cricket is the pinnacle of the sport, and it should be your ultimate goal to play and excel in it.”

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Warner had his sights set on larger goals, much like when he served as a union shop steward during the 2017 labor dispute. As one of the most prominent players in the nation, he stood up for the rights of female and domestic players who were at risk of being excluded from a revenue sharing agreement proposed by Cricket Australia. This was a commendable act, although it is unlikely to be recognized or remembered by his critics.

Ultimately, the facts hold little weight when it comes to shaping people’s opinions. Instead, individuals tend to base their views on feelings or personal stories. Those who were close to Warner or had positive experiences with him will recall his sense of humor and generosity. However, those who did not have positive interactions may remember his rudeness and tendency to hold grudges. The important thing is that individuals are entitled to consider all aspects – both reasons for criticism and counterarguments – and still appreciate the qualities that Warner exhibited both as a cricketer and as a person.

There was his troublemaking streak, in its more wholesome manifestations: a remarkable ability to wind people up, to annoy opponents, to feign sincerity, to tease false stories at press conferences, like confirming his retirement from one-day cricket in the same breath as claiming he would play the 2025 Champions Trophy. There is plenty to read from Usman Khawaja’s comment that his mother’s childhood nickname for Warner was “devil” in Urdu.

The primary performer on the field was a man who possessed a variety of skills and talents. Just two months ago, he confidently executed a backward somersault while hitting a ball into the roof hoardings at the Chinnaswamy Stadium during a World Cup match. He was known for his powerful hits, including one that accidentally hit a child in the second tier of the Waca, but then kindly consoled the child with a pair of batting gloves. He also made history as the fifth person to score a century before lunch in a Test match. He was a versatile player, capable of switching between left-handed and right-handed batting, and known for his daring speed on the field. Despite facing intense scrutiny and pressure from the public during his return to England in 2023, he played a crucial role in Australia’s two Ashes victories.

David Warner embraces his wife Candice after Australia’s series victory over Pakistan.

The total is a composition filled with disorder, conflicting colors, and peculiar figures, resembling a mix of Jackson Pollock’s paintings, the Bayeux tapestry, and a LED drone show. Even though the overall effect may cause headaches, it is undeniable that there is artistry in its creation. It is also significant to note that, with a few minor exceptions, its production is coming to an end. At the center of the image stands a figure dressed in all white, without any claims to being angelic. For those who are familiar with cricket, this figure has been a part of our lives for 15 years. This holds meaning, as does acknowledging the existence of complexity and the limitations of binaries. Some individuals may easily despise Warner and will make it known, but for the rest of us, that is impossible. Thank you, Dave. It has been an enjoyable experience.

Source: theguardian.com