Australia may have retained the Ashes urn, but it was far from a perfect series and the selectors must look to make changes ahead of the Test summer.
While Steve Smith has shown glimpses of his old self during his time on the cricketing outer, David Warner seems to be quietly struggling. But should we even bother to be concerned?
This morning David Warner could again manage only a few quick hits in the Caribbean Premier League before succumbing for seven runs, tempted by a wide delivery that he failed to move his feet towards.
In his first three CPL innings the normally hard-hitting left-hander has managed just 27 runs punctuated by a score of 11 off 21 balls against the Guyana Amazon Warriors. Not only was his run-scoring much too slow in that innings, Warner’s time at the crease was cut short by a shocking decision.
He was given out LBW to a ball he tried to reverse sweep but which ended up grazing his glove and bat. Even if it had hit his leg, it would have likely been outside the line. The dismissal seemed symbolic of his bad run at the moment.
Before the CPL came a disappointing run in the Global T20 competition in Canada, a poorly run competition with good quality players, in which Warner scored just 109 runs in nine matches. In his time at the Winnipeg Hawks he managed one score of 50 runs or more.
Playing in places like Providence, in the South American nation of Guyana or at Maple Leaf CC north of Toronto surely isn’t like walking out for a Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. It can’t be easy to steel yourself for your cricketing fightback when everything around you is a touch amateurish. But that is the situation he finds himself in.
Warner did manage a recent score of 93 off 139 balls in the NT Strike League back here on Australian soil. Dominating at home has always been the 31-year-old’s strong point, but anyone who saw the standard of bowling in that game would agree that it was well below first-class standard.
It’s hardly the sort of practice – or run of form – that Warner needs to keep him tuned up for a possible return to international cricket at next year’s World Cup in England.
But if Warner can’t get ready to play by then, does it even matter? If he doesn’t get a plane ticket for the World Cup, there are strong candidates ready to take over his role at the top of the batting order.
Aaron Finch’s position at the top of the order seems pretty much assured. He has plenty of experience in England, and national team coach Justin Langer has even gone on record saying that the powerful Victorian could become ODI captain in the short term.
Travis Head is a left-hand batsman who has performed in bursts over his limited-overs career in the green and gold, but his form in July’s unsuccessful one-day tour of England was promising. He managed three scores over 50 in five games but failed to kick on and score three figures.
Other than Travis Head, D’Arcy Short is also a strong candidate but has played only three ODIs. His performances so far in international T20 cricket, where he has played ten times for Australia, and his few ODIs have been pretty good, averaging above 40 with the bat in both formats.
If these two have a strong summer, it would be a bold selection panel to throw out one of these two to bring in Warner for the World Cup, especially considering the question marks over Warner’s influence on young players in the team.
Maybe even Warner himself knows that getting back into Australian colours could be a bridge too far this time.
Speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the Global T20 tournament in Canada, Warner said that although there had been “tough times” for him and Steve Smith after South Africa, playing cricket again was “good for us mentally.”
“You can’t sit at home and dwell on what’s happened in the past, you’ve got to move forward,” he said.
Maybe he’ll move into becoming a specialist T20 league player, peddling his wares around the world like Kevin Pietersen, Shaun Tait and Kieron Pollard have done. At nearly 32 years of age he could still earn plenty in these leagues.
But if he’s going to take that path, he’s going to have to rediscover his batting mojo quickly. You can only rest on your reputation for so long in the fast-moving world of T20 cricket.