How good a Test batsman might Warner become?

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David Warner (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

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Early speculation pieces about how well a young or new player’s career might pan out usually annoy me, for they are just that, speculation and guesswork.

But sometimes you can’t help yourself, and so today I’m making an exception for myself.

Self, go nuts.

The way David Warner savagely beat up on the Indian attack in Perth was just extraordinary.

I thought back in 2006/07 that Adam Gilchrist’s similar WACA-assault on England would take some topping, and if Warner hasn’t quite topped Gilchrist’s 57-ball special, then he’s at least equalled it.

Warner was brutal on all the Indian bowlers, but seemed to save his most violent best for debutant Vinay Kumar’s medium-fast delicacies. Of all the descriptions used to tell the tale of how Warner launched into a Kumar like a lion does to a gazelle, I loved Jarrod Kimber’s (of CricInfo/The Chuck Fleetwood-Smiths/Cricket with Balls fame) the most:

“Warner treated Vinay like someone who’d dated his sister twice, before dumping her when she refused to put out.”

It was cruelly harsh, but on the money, as Jarrod generally is.

I’ll happily admit that as recently as this time last year, I mentioned in spoken and quite possibly printed word, the now-mortal phrase, “David Warner will never play Test cricket.”

I just didn’t see how he could possibly adapt to the rigours and constant inquisition that goes with batting in the purest form of the game. At the time, Warner’s game was anything but pure. I’d never seen the guy bat in whites, but I was comfortable in my prediction. There was just no way it could happen.

Now, at this point, I could go on about how Warner did get a go for NSW playing Shield cricket, and he was taken to Zimbabwe on an Australia A tour on a Greg Chappell hunch, where he made more runs than they have room for in scorebooks, but the summary of events since that bold prediction is this:

Warner is now a Test batsman, and I was so very wrong about him. Sooooooo wrong.

After five Tests, Warner has raced to 383 Test runs at a very healthy average of 63.83 and an outrageous strike rate of 85 runs every hundred balls faced.

So with some extra time up our sleeves before the Fourth and final Test of the summer, let me throw this one out there:

Just how good a Test batsman might David Warner become?

I’ll try to apply a little bit of conservative logic and rationality in coming up with an answer.

Warner, right now, is 25. He’s a fairly humble sort of guy, and I get the impression that playing cricket means everything to him. Despite having earned fortune and fame the cricketing world over playing Twenty20, it’s plainly obvious that the Baggy Green is what he treasures most.

Already, it wouldn’t seem that unfeasible to suggest he has a ten-year Test career ahead of him. He’s pretty fit, and although he does have a bit of lower back trouble here and there, it’s nothing that’s so far prevented him from playing.

Australia currently plays around ten to twelve Tests per year, and according the ICC’s current version of the Future Tours Program (which admittedly, is far from concrete), are slated to play 96 Tests from the start of the upcoming West Indies tour right through to April 2020 (that’s the year, not the format).

Warner won’t play every one of those 96, but if we remove a factor of say, 15% for injury and maybe even form slumps, we’re still looking at him playing about 81 of those Tests already scheduled. Having already played five, and with a ten year career already established for this exercise, he’ll finish on as close-as-doesn’t-matter to 100 Tests.

Warner won’t get to bat twice in every Test he plays, and as was the case in Perth, he may well have himself to blame when he doesn’t. Former Australian openers Taylor, Slater, Hayden, Langer and Katich (Katich is now ‘former’, people, let it go – and yes, I know he wasn’t an opener his whole career, but just run with it) all batted twice in around 88% of Tests played, and that seems a fair figure. That would still give Warner about 175 opportunities to bat.

He won’t maintain his current sixty-plus batting average over his career. Let’s assume he’ll lose 15-and-a-bit from his current figure, and will settle around 48.5, which is still Harvey and Walters territory, among the very best batsmen to have ever donned the Baggy Green.

This sort of figure would probably still allow a bit of give and take for Tests played at home and away, and it wouldn’t be that surprising if he averaged as high as 53 in Australia. Everyone loves batting at home.

So let’s tot all this up. 175 innings at an average of 48.5 over ten years and 100 Tests will have him telling the grandkids about a stellar Test career that netted him something like 8485 runs.

By current records, this would place him above Mark Waugh and below Matthew Hayden, and have him ranked fifth on the list of Australia Test run-makers.

He already has two, and looking at those around him on the current list, anywhere up to 28 more Test centuries wouldn’t be out of the question, especially given his strike rate, which will almost certainly be high throughout his career.

This all might be completely wrong, of course.

But overall, it’s not too shabby a set of speculative numbers for someone who wasn’t supposed to play Test cricket. It seems I pre-judged and prematurely dismissed a future great of the game.

Brett McKay is a former non-tackling scrumhalf and not-quite-first-grade middle order stalwart. A rugby and cricket expert for The Roar since July 2009, Brett has written for Inside Rugby and Cricket Australia, and is also PLAY Canberra's rugby correspondent. He tweets from @BMcSport
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