How good a Test batsman might Warner become?

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    David Warner is in career-best form. (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
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (60)

    • Roar Pro

      January 19th 2012 @ 8:06am
      Grimmace said | January 19th 2012 @ 8:06am | ! Report

      Brett,

      I too was in the “He’ll never play test cricket” camp. As long as we understand that he won’t do that every innings and he will fail at times, he will be up there. He seems to have a better technique than Gilchrist did early in his international career and although not the norm for a test opener, a vast majority of his shots are genuine cricket shots. Also to his credit in Perth is that he was able to go to town at the end of the 1st day, and then play a much more test like innings on the 2nd morning after getting hit twice- a tough nut too.

      We must also give Ed Cowan some credit for being the stable anchor that allowed the mayhem to ensue

      • Columnist

        January 19th 2012 @ 9:13am
        Brett McKay said | January 19th 2012 @ 9:13am | ! Report

        G’day Grimmace, long time!

        You are spot on about Warner’s adjustment on Day 2 in Perth. At the time, I wrote for the CA site that after his fireworks on Day 1, he was comparatively glacial on Day 2, adding 76 off a sleep-inducing 79 balls. And you’re spot on about Cowan too, he played the perfect sheet-anchor role. Their 214 was Australia’s first 200+ opening stand in more than three years..

        • January 19th 2012 @ 3:49pm
          Chaos said | January 19th 2012 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

          Though Watto and Hughes got close in South Africa to 200 and I don’t think either will open for a while. Hughes gone and Watto will slot into middle order.

          I made a comment on Twitter about Cowan that he was hiting with a strike rate of 80% and looked like a snail. In days of old that was hitting it out of the park!

          Warner just needs a Cowan type player to rotate the strike over and hit the bad balls away. He does that well…

        • January 19th 2012 @ 10:39pm
          AndyMack said | January 19th 2012 @ 10:39pm | ! Report

          Can I also suggest that Cowan handles the post- and pre-match interviews? A good partnership plays to their strengths. Not sure I can handle 175 more Warner post-innings interviews.

          • Columnist

            January 20th 2012 @ 9:24am
            Brett McKay said | January 20th 2012 @ 9:24am | ! Report

            Andy, you’re spot on there, Warner is already falling into the rut of “worrying about my own game” and “hopefully I can help lay a platform” and so on. Cowan is still in that honeymoon period where he’s still getting away with his honesty.

            I was at the press conference in Canberra where Cowan spoke after being named in the Boxing Day squad, and it was refreshing to hear honesty and insight from a sportsman. But he was also wary of what he was saying: at one point he was asked whether he found out the night before or that morning that he was in, and before giving his answer, Cowan turned to the CA media guy and just asked “um, did I find out last night or this morning?”

            On getting the nod, Cowan went on to tell how he found out the night before, and where he was, and who he was having dinner with, but he prefixed all that with “I believe in honesty in cricket, but I didn’t want to get in trouble on my first day..”

            • January 20th 2012 @ 9:12pm
              AndyMack said | January 20th 2012 @ 9:12pm | ! Report

              He is the Mark Webber of the Aussie team. Well spoken, seems to be well liked, popular among fans of other teams, yet his record is somewhat less inspiring then others on the park/grid.

      • January 22nd 2012 @ 6:55pm
        Klee Gluckman said | January 22nd 2012 @ 6:55pm | ! Report

        Think Warner will be a 50 plus player, think he’s awesome. He is a controlled hitter, he plays proper cricket shots. Great for the marketing of the game, will draw people back to test cricket as well.

    • January 19th 2012 @ 8:50am
      sledgeross said | January 19th 2012 @ 8:50am | ! Report

      Not meaning to sound smug, but Im loving life at the moment when it comes to predictions! Not sure if anyone remembers but I was plumping Warner for a test role (albeit for a Gilchrist type role in the middle order). I also advocated the recall of Hilfenhaus (if anyone remembers that as well). This counteracts my predictions that Kreszja would be a 50 test bowler 😉

      • Columnist

        January 19th 2012 @ 9:15am
        Brett McKay said | January 19th 2012 @ 9:15am | ! Report

        Sledgie, I’d be giving serious thought about editing your post there, there is no way in hell I would admit to making that prediction about Krezja…

        • Columnist

          January 19th 2012 @ 10:18am
          Ryan O'Connell said | January 19th 2012 @ 10:18am | ! Report

          You’d have to admit that after his debut, you would have thought he would at least get into double figures, in terms of Tests played?

          • Columnist

            January 19th 2012 @ 10:44am
            Brett McKay said | January 19th 2012 @ 10:44am | ! Report

            I suppose. I don’t know how he kept his CA contract ahead some others though..

          • January 19th 2012 @ 3:51pm
            Chaos said | January 19th 2012 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

            Would you have said the same about Bob Massie? He only got to 6 tests. After one famous 16 for 137….

    • January 19th 2012 @ 8:52am
      formeropenside said | January 19th 2012 @ 8:52am | ! Report

      I’d be pretty happy if Warner ends up with a Test average around 45 – for an opener who scores quickly, thats more than useful.

      The concern is filling the hole in the middle order once Ponting and Hussey retire: I’m not sold on Watson as batsman or bowler. Time will tell, I guess.

    • January 19th 2012 @ 8:55am
      Chris said | January 19th 2012 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      The thing I wonder about is that Warner doesn’t really adapt his game to fit the demands of Test cricket, but rather, imposes his own style on Test cricket. Which means that speculation about how his career may pan out is quite difficult.

      Just as Gilchrist changed the expectations around what a wicket-keeper should bring to the team (something for which Brad Haddin has suffered a little in his career I think), David Warner may well redefine how a Test batsmen should play. If you’re confident and have the ability, why shouldn’t you be able to have a Test batting strike rate over 100. I’m sure the traditionalists may shudder at the thought, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it happens.

      However it turns out, I doubt watching Warner bat will ever be described as boring!

      • Columnist

        January 19th 2012 @ 10:15am
        Brett McKay said | January 19th 2012 @ 10:15am | ! Report

        Chris, he doesn’t necessarily leave a lot of balls, no, but I think he does a reasonable job of batting for the conditions. His hundred in Hobart was a great test of patience and technique, whereas Perth was all about power. But you’re right, he’ll never be described as boring..

      • January 19th 2012 @ 3:53pm
        Chaos said | January 19th 2012 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

        Warner does apadt. His first hundred against NZ showed he doesn’t just go and hit to cow corner every ball.

        Haddin is suffering because he isn’t the greatest keeper and is now not scoring runs. He let alot of byes through when he took over from Gilly.

    • January 19th 2012 @ 9:12am
      jameswm said | January 19th 2012 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      I think Warner’s future could be one of the hardest to predict Brett, and the usual numbers don’t apply to him. He could have a sustained run of outs, get dropped in 10 tests or after one of the Ashes series, and never don the green cap again. This is very much feasible, with his high risk high reward style.

      However, he hits the ball so cleanly, that it’s hard to see him having too sustained a run of outs. He only needs to survive about say 12-14 overs and he’s likely to be at 50 already.

      Opposition teams will work out where his hitting zones are, but he does cover the field well. Square leg, mid-wicket, straight and point are all hitting zones for him, and he’ll hit full and short ones, though I think he prefers fuller ones. However the margins for error are so small with someone with that level of hand-eye, that even if you know where you want to bowl, you get it slightly wrong and he’ll punish you.

      It will certainly be a helluva ride and I do hope he does well. He and Cowan seem very close, you culd see it when they reached milestones, so I hope the pair does well.

      As for the rest of the batting lineup (as someone queried, if in two years we have something like Marsh-Khawaja-Clarke-Watson at 3-6, it’s not half bad. Others like Lynn, Burns, Cooper and Maddinson may challenge too, by sheer weight of runs.

      Interesting times ahead, that’s for sure.

      • Columnist

        January 19th 2012 @ 9:42am
        Brett McKay said | January 19th 2012 @ 9:42am | ! Report

        James, when I first started playing with the numbers here, my initial calcs were based on him finishing with a career ave of 51.5, which would’ve had him going past Hayden! When I then looked at how many players finished with a Test Ave above 50 (not many) I decided to pull him back a bit.

        But you’re right, he could finish anywhere, and whatever happens, it will be entertaining. And that’s what made this a bit of a fun exercise..

    • January 19th 2012 @ 9:15am
      Sailosi said | January 19th 2012 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      I don’t understand how anybody ever thought that he wouldn’t make it in test cricket. He began playing cricket before 20/20 was even invented and was a very important member of state u/17 and u/19 teams as well as a member of the Australian u/19 team, where his selections were based on his performances at both a grade level and junior representative level. He presents one of the straightest bats in Australian cricket and has one of the soundest defensive techniques, these are qualities that are required to perform at any form of cricket. The same can be said of Chris Gayle who was a star junior who was known for batting for long periods of time (hence his 2 test triple hundreds) and had played 40 tests and 100 odi’s before he’d ever played a 20/20 game.

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      • Columnist

        January 19th 2012 @ 9:58am
        Brett McKay said | January 19th 2012 @ 9:58am | ! Report

        Sailosi, I’ll tell you why I was happy to put the line through him. I knew about his background, and had heard of his hitting ability from clubmates who’d come up against him in 2nd XI games (he hit a double-hundred at Manuka off about 140 balls, from memory).

        But after he made that 80-odd at the MCG in his T20I debut, and then cleaned up in the IPL auction, his game actually went downhill there for a few seasons, and he was in and out of 50ov teams for both NSW and Australia, and could basically only make runs in T20 by hitting everything over mid-wicket. What good technique he might have had had deteriorated to the point that he was just a flat-track across-the-line slogger.

        To his credit, he quite obviously worked hard on his game, got a chance in a few Shield games for NSW, and started doing well. And as soon as he started peeling off centuries and doubles for Australia A, I knew my assertion was in trouble..

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