David Warner's dramatic growth as a player and person

Roald Grobler

David Warner.

If there was a prize for the best cricket comeback, David Warner would win it. His story from exiled cricketer to World Cup run-machine is truly remarkable. 

Warner was banned for a year in March 2018 (due to a ball-tampering incident) but earned his way back into the Australian side. He has been in devastating form since his return and has amassed 516 runs at the World Cup 2019 so far.

But the year in the wilderness was tough for Warner. He was forced to do a lot of soul-searching. For a while he was moved to the cricket background. Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes. 

Warner possibly used this lonely period to introspect. The outspoken Australian was infamous for his sudden outbursts before lightning struck him in South Africa. He grabbed the headlines for the wrong reasons but the ban forced him to re-evaluate. Warner mellowed and was stronger, both as a person and a cricket player, when the ban ended and his performances in England and Wales prove this point emphatically.

To understand what Warner went through, we have to revisit the ball-tampering scandal. This incident caused his year-long ban.

Mother of all controversies

The date was March 24, 2018. It was the fourth day of the third test between South Africa and Australia. South Africa dominated the first session of the day and looked set to win the match. The teams then left the field for the lunch break. During the break, Australia devised a plan to turn around the situation. Nobody, at the time, knew how dire the consequences would be.

The players returned to the field and play resumed. Soon after, television cameras focused on Australia’s Cameron Bancroft. The batsman had yellow adhesive tape, roughened by dirt, in his pocket and, shockingly, used it to scratch the ball.

Immediately the commentators started speculating. Would Australia cheat in order to win the match? The answer was, unfortunately, yes. At the press conference after the day’s play, Bancroft admitted to altering the condition of the ball. Even more alarmingly, David Warner instructed him to do it.

The incident caused an unprecedented storm in Australia and was dubbed ‘sandpaper-gate’ in the process. Former players were shocked and angry with their actions. Under immense criticism, Warner, alongside captain Steve Smith and Bancroft, were banned from international and domestic cricket for a year (in Australia); he was cleared to play in global T20 tournaments. 

It was undoubtedly the lowest point of his career. Warner spent the next few months with his family while recovering from the trauma. 

Resounding comeback

Warner’s biggest test after coming back to professional cricket was the Indian Premier League in April, 2019 The combative batsman passed it with flying colors, hitting 692 runs for the Sunrisers Hyderabad, winning the orange cap. These feats propelled him into Australia’s World Cup squad. Warner had come a full circle since his ban, from ignominy to ecstasy.

The Australian scored 89 not out against Afghanistan in his first match back for the team. He has smashed two centuries since his return and scored 516 runs at the World Cup and has shown a lot of new-found maturity coupled with his aggressive stroke-play. The left-hander is possibly close to his best form.

His transformation as a person is equally impressive. He was once brash and aggressive, but is now more docile. He recently said he was “humbled” by the ban. Warner told the media after the match against Bangladesh that he is “just so grateful” for a second chance.He seems to be reaping the rewards from a period of contemplation engendered by his forced hiatus from the game and is clearly a new-and-improved version of his old self.

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