David Warner has been criticised for slow-pace batting.
David Warner has been criticised for slow-pace batting.

World is wrong about David Warner

OPINION

David Warner sits atop the runscoring chart at this World Cup but he has still been criticised for the way he's arrived there.

In his first foray into international cricket since returning from his 12-month ball-tampering ban, the man once known as "Bull" is a far cry from the brutish basher of the cricket ball we'd come to expect in pre-sandpaper days.

Some pundits and former players believe Warner's 447 runs at an average of 89.4 with two centuries across six matches have been coming too slowly. His strike rate for the tournament is 74.28 - well down on his career mark in ODIs of 95.6 - and that drops to 68 in the opening 10-over powerplay.

Former England stars Graeme Swann and Michael Vaughan have been among those to suggest the go-slow batting of the Aussies up top is hindering the team. Vaughan tweeted earlier this tournament Australia was playing "dated" cricket with the willow and Swann said previously the Aussies "don't seem to be up with the modern game of hell for leather with the bat".

Shane Warne also joined in during Australia's 48-win over Bangladesh - when Warner belted 166 off 147 balls - tweeting his confusion at why the men in gold didn't up the ante sooner than they did. Swann said the Aussies were too timid during the middle overs when Warner and Usman Khawaja were building their 192-run second-wicket partnership.

Warner has become the face of this sedate approach because it's so out of character for him. Is he chewing up dot balls because he feels a debt to his teammates after the South African scandal and wants to show how responsible he's become? Is he more mature? Is the comeback to international cricket proving tougher than we realise? Nobody really knows, and there's no simple answer.

"I don't mean to go out there and bat slow. I've tried to get a calculation of how many fielders I've hit in the first 10 (overs)," Warner said after his ton against Bangladesh. "It gets a bit frustrating because you middle one and it goes full pace to the fielder and you can't even get off strike. That's been a bit annoying but I've just hung in there.

"Must be a bit more maturity, I think."

But the rate at which Warner's runs are coming isn't the huge problem some believe if his teammates help him out. If it's the left-hander's job to bat deep and assume the anchor role, as he's said he wants to do, others must take responsibility to adjust.

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom in Warner’s return.
It hasn’t been all doom and gloom in Warner’s return.

Aaron Finch can clear the ropes with brute force at any stage of the innings, Steve Smith is more than capable of going at better than a run-a-ball and Usman Khawaja showed against Bangladesh he too can open his shoulders, finishing with the best strike rate of the top three by scoring 89 off 72 balls.

Then you've got the explosive Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis, while against India Alex Carey scored the fastest half century ever by an Australian in World Cups. If Warner's doing it tough, his mates need to pick up the slack - and they've got the ability to do so.

Better to have Warner scoring lots of runs at a slower pace than no runs at all, or getting out after blasting a quickfire 40, because if Warner isn't scoring hundreds you can't expect someone else automatically will. Cricket doesn't work like that.

Without Warner's contributions, however many balls they've taken, perhaps there would be even more question marks around Australia's batting than there are now.

Warner's slow strike rate isn't ideal, but if he's racked up this many runs while not at his best, imagine how damaging he'll be if he finds his groove in the back half of the World Cup. And if the rain returns in the knockout phase and Australia is faced with a green seamer, Warner's experience at grinding out big scores will be invaluable.

The general consensus is Warner's slow starts haven't cost his team badly yet, except in the failed chase of India's 352, but come crunch time against heavyweight England, a lack of batting firepower could be fatal to his team's chances.

But as Khawaja says, there can't be too many complaints about not scoring enough runs when Australia has won five from six.

"Probably not necessary most times," Khawaja said with a smile when asked about the pre-tournament hype around a team scoring 500 for the first time. "At the end of the day, it's all about winning cricket games.

"I think we sort of went through that against Pakistan where we went a bit too hard too early, trying to chase a bigger total, and we learnt from it. At the end of the day it's about winning cricket games. It doesn't matter how many runs you get, you have got to get enough on that field on that day against the opposition to win the cricket game.

"If you can get 500 runs, that is great but a win is a win. At the end of the day that is the main focus."

If slow scoring does haunt the Aussies later in the tournament, then the blowtorch can be put on Warner. But for now, all he's doing is helping his team win - albeit in different fashion to what we're used to.



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