Ever since his return from the ball-tampering ban, David Warner has been the picture of humility - at least, according to his Australia teammates. Ben Stokes clearly thought otherwise, citing Warner’s never-ending chatter as the reason for his superhuman effort in the Headingly Test of this year’s Ashes.
Warner had appeared to have changed his ways, calming himself down and not engaging in the verbal abuse and sledging he was known for before the ban. He was a new man, one not prone to losing his temper, or one who wouldn’t lose his head in a match and resort to cheap tactics to get batsmen out. One notable example of this shift in personality comes from the first Test of the same Ashes. Warner was fielding at the boundary during England’s first innings at Edgbaston, when the crowd behind began chanting “He’s got sandpaper in his hands” at Warner. The old Warner, the one who was quick to anger, and who once got into a bar brawl with Joe Root, would have taken grave offence to this sledging. The new and improved (aside from his batting that series) Warner turned to the crowd with a beaming smile and emptied out his pockets, reveling in the banter. It was a telling sign that the man had truly turned over a new leaf.
However, in On Fire, a book detailing all of his incredible sporting moments in 2019, Ben Stokes rubbished this idea of a renewed Warner, claiming that the Australia opener’s incessant talk fuelled his anger, and solidified his determination to win the Test. And win it he did, in truly unforgettable fashion. He recalls how Warner tried to destabilize him during his innings of 135* by talking at him from the slips cordon, most often during the final session of the third day of play, when Stokes simply wanted to reach stumps without losing his wicket.
"I had extra personal motivation due to some things that were said to me out on the field on the evening of day three when I was trying to get through to stumps," Stokes wrote. "A few of the Aussies were being quite chirpy, but in particular David Warner seemed to have his heart set on disrupting me.
"He just wouldn't shut up for most of my time out there. I could accept it from just about any other opponent. Truly. Not from him, though. The changed man he was adamant he'd become, the one that hardly said boo to a goose and even went as far as claiming he had been re-nicknamed 'Humble' by his Australia teammates, had disappeared.”
Australia’s captain and wicket keeper Tim Paine, thinks differently. As keeper, he stands next to Warner, and so is privy to every exchange the once-fiery opener has with opposition batsmen. He denies that anything in Warner admittedly frequent chatter was abusive, and that his teammate was well within his rights to chat with Stokes.
"I was obviously standing next to David the whole time and you are allowed to talk on the cricket field," Paine said, when asked about Stokes’ comments. "But by no means was he abusing him or sledging him. It just seems to be a common trend in England that they like to use Davey's name to spike book sales. So good luck to them.”
Paine also pointed out that Warner had been facing abuse from England’s fans throughout the series (and indeed from all fans, since his return to the international arena), and said that he had carried himself through all of that with grace and class. However, he couldn’t help but throw in another little dig at Stokes and England at the end of his statement.
"The way David handled himself during the Ashes was excellent.” Paine said. “Particularly given the fact he wasn't scoring a hell of a lot of runs and I'm pretty sure he was on the end of a fair bit himself on and off the field in England. So I thought he did a great job of handling that and held himself really well throughout the series. They write books to sell and they have to get headlines to get sales.” he finished.