David Warner: not as tough as he thought he was

I confess, I’ve never liked David Warner.  He’s not a bad batsman, but he’ll never be a great.  He’s just scored 97 against South Africa at the WACA and he had a good knock against them in Adelaide a few years back, but he is useless against sideways movement.

But that’s not why I don’t like him.  It wasn’t even the Joe Root incident that saw him kicked off the 2013 Ashes tour to England, you could pass that off as youthful idiocy and it didn’t seem to bother Root much.  What made me dislike him was his “scared eyes” speech during the first test of the 2013/4 Ashes Series at the ‘Gabba.  What he said may have been true, but his saying it was utterly graceless and classless in a team and series which was in desperately short supply of anything approaching either.  Jonathan Trott had just pulled out of the tour having been mentally shot to pieces by the ferocity of Mitchell Johnson’s pace attack, and he never recovered.  Any opponent with grace or class would have wished him well and not mentioned it again, particularly when at the time of Warner’s speech Australia were in a commanding position in the test.  At the time the Australian team, media, and a good portion of the public thought it was all fair and above board, and the episode demonstrated how these thick-skinned Australians are so much tougher than the cowardly Poms.

Only we were then supposed to buy into the bullshit which occurred not long afterwards when Australia had its “Diana moment” with the death of Philip Hughes.  The nation grieved in harmony with “best mate Davey Warner” as he shed tears over what was a tragic accident.  Crying over the loss of a mate is fine, fella.  But not after you’ve strutted around like the schoolyard bully gobbing off about how tough you are while mocking fellow batsmen whose mind obviously isn’t quite right.

So I don’t like him as a person, despite his efforts to grow up a bit since.  But the bravado of his ‘Gabba speech looks very much like the pride that comes before a fall.  I remarked after that series that Australia is incapable of batting under pressure:

Despite Australia’s success in each match, they found themselves 100/5, 257/5, 143/5, 202/5, and 97/5 in successive first innings.  However, they were fortunate enough to have a remarkably in-form Brad Haddin come to the crease each time, and another middle/late-order batsman – Johnson in Brisbane, Clarke in Adelaide, Smith in Perth and Sydney, and nobody at all in Melbourne – to stick with him to post relatively modest scores (Adelaide excepted) which proved to be far beyond England’s reach.

Despite their success, this team has yet to demonstrate it can follow even a modest first innings total or bat a second innings from behind, and their bowlers have not had to bowl sixth and seventh spells.

And then when they went to South Africa afterwards:

However, crucially they were under no scoreboard pressure at any point, and finally – in the second test at Port Elizabeth – Australia lost the toss, were told to bowl, and subsequently were required to walk out to bat 423 runs behind after bowling 150 overs and watching two South Africans score centuries.  As I expected, Australia lurched to 246 as their top order largely failed – although Warner’s capability surprised me, scoring 70.  Brad Haddin, the batting hero of the Ashes, was bowled for 9.  South Africa piled on another 270 and with an eye on the fifth day weather forecast declared with a lead of 448.  Once again Warner lasted longer than I expected against Steyn with the new ball, although an aggressive 66 was not really what was required under the circumstances.  Rogers, who I always quite liked, went on to score 107 while the rest of the team amassed a whopping 24 runs between the whole lot of them, losing 9 wickets in the final session of the day.  South Africa won by 231 runs.

After our drubbing in 2013/4 I said this:

For Australia, it’s all about whether they can carry this success into the next series against South Africa and beyond.  For that to happen, they need to avoid falling into the same trap that did for England by interpretting resounding victories over weakened and demoralised opposition as evidence of perfection, and dismissing setbacks (i.e. the defeats by Pakistan and South Africa) as mere blips.

Why do I bring all this up now?  Because as I said at the beginning, Australia are playing South Africa at the WACA and bowled out their opponents for 242 before racing to 150 for 0 in reply.  Warner batted well and was on 97 when he threw his wicket away.  But from there Australia collapsed to 244 all out.  And here he is talking to the media again:

David Warner admits that Australia’s batsmen have fallen into a debilitating pattern of middle-order batting collapses that are wasting decent starts, and also says he does not know how the problem will be rectified.

You don’t say?

Having made 97 in an opening stand of 158 with Shaun Marsh, Warner said he was demoralised by watching the loss of all Australia’s 10 wickets for 86, surrendering prime position in the WACA Test to South Africa despite the visiting team’s loss of Dale Steyn to a serious shoulder injury.

Demoralised?  What happened to the legendary Aussie ticker, maaaaate?  Isn’t such mental softness reserved for us Poms?

The passage of play mirrored numerous innings on the recent tour of Sri Lanka despite vastly different conditions, and Warner said he could see the pattern stretching even further back, to the 2015 Ashes tour.

“I feel there has been a trend as well in the last 12 and maybe 18 months that also follows on to when we were in England and we were playing there,” Warner said. “It’s tough to see as an opening batter sometimes when you get off to those starts as a top four and then you sort of fall away that easily.

No, chum.  It goes back a lot further than that.  Had you been paying attention in the 2013/4 Ashes test instead of strutting about in bully-boy mode you’d have seen your top order was bailed out by Brad Haddin and A.N. Other in every match.  For all your disparaging of Trott’s mental strength, where is yours now?  And that of your team mates?

If cliches were runs, Australia – who have allowed South Africa to go from 45 for 2 to 390 for 6 in the second innings by close of Day 3 – would be miles ahead.  Take it away, Davey Boy:

“knuckle down…batting unit…build partnerships…put their hand up…move forward…you have to back yourself as a player…mixed messages…at this level for a reason…gain a bit of momentum…him as an individual.”

Let’s see how he and his pals go in the final innings staring down the barrel of a 400+ run deficit.  With Steyn out injured they might be in with a shot, but if history is any guide they’ll be skittled well short of that.

UPDATE

A decent second innings effort by Australia, underpinned by Khawaja’s 97 and Neville’s 60, but they’ve still lost by 177 runs to a South Africa which was a bowler short through most of the match and also missing Morne Morkel.  And this is at home, too.  The most worrying thing for Australia will be that SA managed to declare their second innings on 540 for 8 even though all their bowlers are fit.  For several years now Australia have relied on very good bowling to make up for poor batting.

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18 thoughts on “David Warner: not as tough as he thought he was

  1. When I played cricket in Australia I couldn’t actually see the fastest balls bowled at me. “Play the line of his arm” indeed. I have no idea whether the bugger got sideways movement: it was certainly quite unnecessary.

    As for Ozzies: I’ve always found them rather thin-skinned i.e. they can dish it out but they can’t take it.

  2. Pingback: I’d probably read Samizdata if the idiots didn’t with it with white on dark.

  3. Agreed, Dearieme. There is good stuff at Samizdata, but the reading thereof is more trouble than it is worth.

  4. I was at the WACA when Ponting played his final match. It’s been a dark time for Aussie cricket since then and there are many of us at my cricket club who are vocal in their pleasure when our own national team goes badly.

    Strangely, the demise in our team’s cricket character has coincided with the demise of the channel 9 commentary team. The only original left is Ian Chappell and he sounds decidedly grumpy. I would be grumpy too if I had Warne, Kevin Peterson, Slater, and all the other sufferers of a frontal lobotomy in the commentary box with me.

    It is simply not listenable. They screech like demented harpies and try to outdo each other in their efforts to belabor a point. Steyn’s injury was overwhelmingly classed as a ‘tragedy’. A tragedy for the game, a tragedy for South Africa, on and on it went.

    Well, excuse me, but a tragedy is not a sportsman who hurts his shoulder. A tragedy is a busload of orphans careening over a steep precipice while they were all on their way to meet their long lost relatives.

    Another version of a real tragedy is listening to this commentary team talk about the Australian cricket team. That’s like a double tragedy in one.

  5. “careening over a steep precipice”: ‘careering’, unless you insist on adopting American educational standards.

  6. If they hadn’t been scraping the barnacles and weed off the bottom of the bus none of it would have happened.

    Anyway, Warner has two problems – he’s a bit of a twat and he has half a brain. There isn’t much up top to keep the twat part in check.

  7. And the mental strength bit – Australia can be whupped on the sub-continent, have massive batting collapses, but you rarely hear the phrase “mental strength” being uttered about them. It’s because the image of Aussie cricketers – tough, growing up playing on dirt tracks in the outback in 40 degrees, etc etc makes it unthinkable.

  8. Just reading this brings home to me how long out of following cricket I am. It just dropped away and yet I once never missed a match.

  9. @Adam
    Reminds me of Keith Miller’s comment about pressure in cricket vice a Messerschmidt up one’s arse.

  10. Australians are prone to reading too much in to the quality of their cricket team. When the team is winning, they think this is because Australians are tough, brave, uncompromising natural sportsmen, rather than because they have a squad of people who are very good at cricket.

    Any decline in form is therefore seen as a sign of national decline. I doubt Warner & Smith are any better or worse as men than Waugh* & Hayden. They’re just not as good at cricket.

    The English are less likely to think that winning the Ashes means we are a nation favoured by God and losing them means we are a bunch of worthless wimps.

    *perhaps not a great example as Steve Waugh is probably a decent guy, even though watching him grind out centuries annoyed me as much as it bored me. Still, all that ‘mental disintegration’ stuff was bollocks. He wouldn’t have tried it with Nathan Lyon as his main spinner…

  11. Adam,

    Strangely, the demise in our team’s cricket character has coincided with the demise of the channel 9 commentary team.

    Oh Gawd, the TV cricket commentary in Australia is appalling (the radio stuff was good though). It’s much better on Sky at home.

    I would be grumpy too if I had Warne, Kevin Peterson, Slater, and all the other sufferers of a frontal lobotomy in the commentary box with me.

    KP? Jesus. Although Warne, when he is on Sky in the UK, is excellent.

    It is simply not listenable. They screech like demented harpies and try to outdo each other in their efforts to belabor a point. Steyn’s injury was overwhelmingly classed as a ‘tragedy’. A tragedy for the game, a tragedy for South Africa, on and on it went.

    Tells you something about their audience though, doesn’t it?

  12. Rob,

    And the mental strength bit – Australia can be whupped on the sub-continent, have massive batting collapses, but you rarely hear the phrase “mental strength” being uttered about them. It’s because the image of Aussie cricketers – tough, growing up playing on dirt tracks in the outback in 40 degrees, etc etc makes it unthinkable.

    Also, as Michael Jennings kindly pointed out on here once, the away series barely registers among Australians, they are too busy watching the winter sports. Only when the home tests begin do they whip themselves into a frenzy and all the nonsense comes out. I’d bet that a quarter of those “fanatics” supporters who think players ought to bleed for the baggy green are unaware of the drubbing they took in Sri Lanka.

  13. MC,

    The English are less likely to think that winning the Ashes means we are a nation favoured by God and losing them means we are a bunch of worthless wimps.

    Indeed, but that started to creep in when we arrived Down Under for the 2013/14 series. That ass-whupping was probably the best thing that could have happened, long term. We at least learned the lessons: sacked the coaches, dropped the trouble-makers, and – eventually – brought in a decent manager and new blood.

    *perhaps not a great example as Steve Waugh is probably a decent guy, even though watching him grind out centuries annoyed me as much as it bored me. Still, all that ‘mental disintegration’ stuff was bollocks. He wouldn’t have tried it with Nathan Lyon as his main spinner…

    Yeah, as somebody once said: anyone can be a good captain when your team includes McGrath, Warne, Hayden, Langer, Gilchrist, Ponting, and your brother. 🙂

  14. Tells you something about their audience though, doesn’t it?

    I’m their audience. Whaddaya tryin to say? Ya havin a go?

  15. I’m their audience. Whaddaya tryin to say? Ya havin a go?

    You forgot: “fack off, whinging Pom!”

  16. The Australian cricket team is so bad that I can barely bring myself to watch any more.

    And the rot set in under Ponting. Brilliant batsman, but terrible captain. And I have met bacteria with more brain cells.

  17. And the rot set in under Ponting. Brilliant batsman, but terrible captain.

    Indeed, I thought the Australian board gave Ponting a free pass as captain because he was such a good batsman. Michael Vaughan got the measure of him in the 2005 Ashes.

    And I have met bacteria with more brain cells.

    And Steve Smith? A very likeable guy and a pretty good cricketer in spells, but I’m not sure he’s captain material.

  18. Michael Vaughan got the measure of him in the 2005 Ashes.

    And if I had been in charge, he would have been dropped completely from the side after that debacle. (Yes, I did say this at the time). But everyone shrugged and behaved as if nothing had happened.

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