The Roar
The Roar



Warner's woes: The Bull now the elephant in the room, and form slump can't be ignored anymore

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30th November, 2022

Australian cricket has a problem, and its name is David Warner.

It’s a problem that only grows more manifest with every passing Test, and has been steadily rising in magnitude since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly three years ago. That’s how long it has been since the veteran opener has raised three figures in a Test.

This clash with the West Indies is Warner’s 13th since COVID hit, with eight of them in the home conditions in which he has spent the bulk of his career bullying bowlers into submission.

His dismissal on day one, an ungainly drag-on off Jayden Seales for just 5, brought his run tally in that time period to 578 runs at 27.52. It drops to 26.53 on home soil.

The 36-year old has never had a dry spell this profound; his previous longest run of Tests without a century was in the formative days of his career, when he went 11 matches without three figures between late 2012 and 12 months later, in the opening Ashes Test against England. That stretch was, up until recently, the only time in his glittering career a century drought had reached double-figure Tests.

Such a form dip was inevitable: few batter get the chance to retire on their own terms, and perhaps only the great Don Bradman could be said to have been as good as ever at the final curtain. As the reflexes slow and fatigue sets in faster, many an Australian legend, from Ricky Ponting to Michael Clarke to Mark Waugh to Adam Gilchrist, has finished a shadow of the player they were in their pomp.

The pressing matter for Australia to deal with is this: 2023 is set to be Australia’s most frenetic, high-stakes touring year in a decade. After a combined five home Tests against the Windies and Proteas, they have four Tests in India, before a winter tour of England for the Ashes.


It’s a bad time for Warner to find himself this out of form, and a worse time to be confronted by his two most barren locations.

Warner has never scored a Test century in either country: in eight matches in India, he averages a miserable 24.25, while in England, it’s just 26.04, including a single-figure average in five Tests the last time he toured.

Remember, too: that was Warner at the peak of his powers. After his miserable run in England in 2019, he came out in the Australian summer and walloped a triple-century against Pakistan, while he had no problem dismantling India on home shores in series in 2011/12 and 2014/15.

Ordinarily, a combination of Warner’s undisputed credits in the bank and the lack of quality replacement options in the Sheffield Shield – Australia turning to Aaron Finch to open the batting during his 12-month Sandpapergate suspension tells you plenty about the opening stocks at the time – gave them no choice but to stick solid and hope he turned things around.

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Time and again, never more obviously than in the summer following his nightmarish tour of England in 2019, he has repaid the faith.

But now, it’s Warner who needs Australia more than Australia needs him. Younger, hungrier and more in-form openers are cropping up everywhere in the Sheffield Shield.


One-time partner Matt Renshaw is in the form of his life, averaging 63.75 in the Shield and hitting a ton against the touring West Indians for the Prime Minister’s XI. Having been unfairly shunted from the team with a far superior record to Warner’s current malaise five years ago, it seems only a matter of if and not when he adds to his 11 Test caps.

David Warner of Australia reacts to being bowled.

David Warner of Australia reacts to being bowled by Jayden Seales of the West Indies. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Marcus Harris has proven limitations at the highest level, but will keep banging the door down in the Shield for evermore; as will Cameron Bancroft, who already has two Shield centuries this season if precious little else.

West Australian opening partner Sam Whiteman is the pick of the untrieds, averaging 43.12 this season after pushing 60 in a dominant 2021/22 campaign; while Henry Hunt’s stats are less eye-catching but the South Australian clearly possesses the temperament of a long-format opener.

Nor will Warner’s departure deprive the Aussies of much-needed experience at the top of the order: Usman Khawaja has made the most of the latest iteration of his Test career, and after an exceptional past 12 months in all conditions, from the spinning conditions of Sri Lanka to the batsman’s paradise of Sydney, is now clearly Australia’s first-choice opener.

Where four years ago the cupboard was bare for openers sufficient to make Warner’s Test return a foregone conclusion, now there are options aplenty. It gives the selectors, and Australian cricket in general, the ability to decide when is the right time to begin life without Warner.

That time mightn’t have arrived just yet, but it is coming fast. And it would be better for all involved to make the call a Test too early rather than one too late.


If Warner keeps batting this summer, it’s more likely than not his dry spell will end at some point. The quicks of the Windies and then South Africa are no pushovers, but this is a giant of Australian cricket we’re talking about. And he showed in the recent ODI series against England that the ability to score bulk runs hasn’t deserted him just yet.

That’s a best-case scenario, though, and not even close to a guarantee that he will be anything more than a burden as Australia attempt to do the impossible in India and then a rejuvenated England in the coming 12 months. And it would be an enormous ask for a new face, be it Renshaw, Harris, Hunt or someone else, to be thrown into the furnace against Australia’s two greatest foes on their own patches.

Whether against the Windies or the Proteas, it would be a bold move for the selectors to even dip their toe in the water with an alternative to Warner – especially if the runs flow in the second innings in Perth, or the second Test against the Windies where he remains a near-certainty to be picked.

But unless the Aussies think that, somehow, Warner can remain the man they need for nine Tests in India and England next year, a brutal call would surely give his replacement the best possible chance to thrive.

Warner’s belligerent approach to cricket, on the field and off, has earned him the nickname ‘Bull’.

Now, though, he’s an elephant in the room, and one that can’t be ignored anymore.