It’s time for David Warner to turn around his record on the road

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By , Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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    David Warner is a cricketing Jekyll and Hyde. On home pitches, he monsters opposing bowling attacks, averaging 59.2.

    Away from home his average is a modest 37.6, a drop of 21.6 runs.

    The stark nature of the differential between his home and away performances is also mirrored in his career century tally – 14 at home, four away.

    Three of those four centuries on the road have been compiled in South Africa, including one in each innings at Cape Town in March 2014.

    His other away century was scored against Pakistan in the UAE in October of the same year in a match that saw 1259 runs scored for the loss of 32 wickets.

    His Test average in South Africa is 90.5; in the UAE, it is 59.8.

    Beyond that, his away record makes for very ordinary reading: 24.4 in India, 13.0 in New Zealand, 27.2 in Sri Lanka, 26.9 in West Indies, and 37.1 in England.

    For a man who has a career average of 48.3, the gap between his home and away performances seriously reduces his standing in the game.

    On the pitches in Australia and South Africa, with their consistent bounce and pace onto the bat, Warner has been as explosive as any top-order batsman to have played the game.

    He confidently backs himself to play through the line, marrying a good eye and quick hands to great effect. It is very much a case of see ball, hit ball.

    However, when there is sideways movement – through the air in England or off the pitch in the sub-continent – he looks an entirely different batsman.

    David Warner leaves the crease after losing his wicket

    The current Border-Gavaskar series in India has provided more frustration for Warner.

    He has reached double figures in each innings – 38 and 10 at Pune and 33 and 17 at Bangalore – but has been unable to produce a truly meaningful knock.

    In the first innings at Pune, he dragged a wide ball from Umesh Yadav onto his stumps while attempting to drive on the up through the covers. In the second innings, he played down the wrong line to Ravi Ashwin and was trapped in front.

    First up at Bangalore, his dismissal was ugly. He was caught in two minds when Ashwin delivered a full ball outside leg stump. He looked to be shaping to pad the ball away before following it with his hands as it spun across him, beat the outside edge and clattered into off-stump.

    In the second innings, Ashwin had his measure again, with Warner adjudged leg before having attempted to sweep a ball that was too full.

    Ashwin has become Warner’s nemesis. The wily off-spinner has dismissed him nine times, the most by any bowler during his 62-Test career. Next best is England seamer James Anderson, who has claimed him seven times.

    Prior to the current series, Australia’s on-field leaders espoused different strategies.

    Skipper Steve Smith proffered defence as being the key to succeed in India. His deputy believed aggression would be the best way for him to prosper.

    Warner said pre-series, that he hoped, “to keep playing his way and our way as Australian cricketers. ‘Boof’ [coach Darren Lehmann] is a massive fan of taking the game on and trying to win from every situation.”

    Speaking specifically about Warner prior to the series, Smith challenged him to go big on this tour, saying, “I’m going to be different from Davey, you don’t want to get rid of someone’s natural flair and the way they play. But if he gets a hundred it might be about knuckling down again and going big, get 200 or 300”.

    Currently, a century looks a long way off, let alone a double or triple ton.

    Warner has eschewed his normally aggressive approach in this series, despite saying before it got underway it was the best method for him is he was to succeed.

    Against a career strike rate of 78.2, he is going at 56.0 through the first two Tests – still a healthy click for most players but considerably pedestrian by Warner’s normal standards.

    At times, he has appeared to be in two minds as to which is the best way to go about his innings.

    Australia's David Warner

    Warner is one of the few batsmen who is adept at switch hitting and said after the Bangalore loss that he had considered it as an attacking option to combat Ashwin when he was targeting the rough outside his leg stump.

    He said he shelved the idea because he was fearful of being given out leg before wicket if he missed the ball.

    According to the laws that would not be the case. The determination of leg and off-side is based on the position of the batsmen’s pads at “the moment the ball comes into play”, which according to the laws of the game, occurs when the bowler commences his run-up.

    With that having been pointed out to Warner it may be a tactic that he adopts on occasions in the remaining two Tests.

    To date, a softly-softly approach has not borne fruit for him.

    Perhaps he would be advised to look to his traditionally more expansive game for the rest of this series.

    To date, none of the Australian batsmen have succeeded in putting the Indian bowlers onto the defensive.

    As a result, Virat Kohli has had the luxury of employing attacking fields with men huddled around the bat.

    A more aggressive Warner could help alleviate that pressure.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.