David Warner’s route to international cricket was unconventional. There is now just the faintest chance that his departure may be unconventional, too.
In January 2009 Warner became the first Australian cricketer since 1877 to represent his country without playing first-class cricket. He strolled out at the MCG in a Twenty20 international against South Africa and smashed 89 from 43 balls.
It took a while for his state of New South Wales – he was born just down the road from the SCG – to trust him to bat against a red ball.
But soon it became apparent that Warner could not only hit the ball with astonishing power but that he possessed a sound enough technique that could prosper in the longer game. Since 2011 he has played 19 Tests for Australia as an opening batsman.
He averages a respectable 39; he once carried his bat against New Zealand – an opportunity denied him on Wednesday at Edgbaston – and he was expected to be one of the cornerstones in Australia’s quest for the Ashes this summer.
Warner, 26, is very much the modern cricketer, albeit perhaps with an ancient difficulty once he has had a few drinks. His emergence at the highest level was swift and based purely on those one-day skills. He was rapidly whisked away to the Indian Premier League to earn money beyond most rookies’ dreams.
It all happened with bewildering speed in the Australian summer of 2008-09. And, like the vast majority of high-flyers, he opened a Twitter account.
Warner was not the first to discover that tweeting can be a costly embarrassment. His Twitter spat with two senior Australian journalists, Robert Craddock and Malcolm Conn, was a source of pre-Ashes merriment to those looking forward to the summer of 2013 on this side of the planet. It cost Warner a A$5 750 fine and he had to apologise. On the back of the “homework saga” this was wonderful pre-Ashes fare but hardly likely to have a real impact.
But now this. A drunken spat late at night with a member of the opposition is not unprecedented and taken in isolation it would be a 48-hour news story. But there is a pattern of malfunctioning within the Australia cricket team at the moment. The pinpricks are so regular and constant that a scar is opening up.
Warner has two problems: he is behaving badly and he is not scoring any runs. In the two practice matches before the Champions Trophy he scored ducks, then only nine against England. Nor was he prolific for the Delhi Daredevils in the IPL before arriving here.
No doubt he is also testing the patience of the Australian hierarchy as he awaits the outcome of another hearing. After the Twitter affair there was a ringing endorsement from his captain, Michael Clarke. “He has got great potential as a leader. He is a wonderful guy and a wonderful player and I love playing cricket with him,” said Clarke.
Before the latest incident Australia’s current captain obviously had faith.
Their previous captain may help to provide a solution. Indeed, the most obvious source of wise counsel for Warner is residing in England at this moment. The Australians may do well to make a call to Ricky Ponting — not to play, but to share some of his experiences with Warner.
In 1999 Ponting had a rather more vigorous and much publicised pub altercation — he ended up with a black eye — in Kings Cross in Sydney. Ponting came to acknowledge that he had a problem with alcohol and history confirms that this problem was solved.
Despite that hiccup Ponting ended up playing 168 Tests and 375 ODIs and captaining Australia for seven years, and he now commands universal respect. Warner will never be such a great cricketer as Ponting, but his first Australia captain in that amazing T20 debut can now be a source of guidance and inspiration.
There will now be an extravaganza of speculation and gossip over Warner amid consternation that the victim was the angelic Joe Root. But expect Warner to still be around for the Ashes.