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‘Maddening, yet transfixing’ – DAVID FRITH

CRICKET’S LEADING historian David Frith has glowingly endorsed my latest book, The Bull, David Warner, Daring to be Different:

Abrasive; explosive; hero; villain. Anyone who has seen Dave Warner in action will have no doubt that he is an almost unique stirrer.

Time and again cricket-lovers, some Australians among them, have wished they could slap some tape over his mouth. It’s to be regretted that history will probably remember him as much for his raw vocal barrages as for the heaps of runs he has carved out in all formats. There can be no forgiveness.

His “humble” background might be tendered in defence by his most devoted fans, but young Archie Jackson was even poorer, but he was a gentleman cricketer almost 100 years ago, universally adored.

Warner’s record at the crease is spectacular, prompting author Piesse to proclaim him as the greatest of multi-format batsmen – all 5½ feet of him.

Supporting this (praise endorsed by Greg Chappell in his foreword) is Warner’s place alongside Trumper, Macartney and Bradman with pre-lunch Test match hundreds to their credit. Among other random statistics to amaze: the third-fastest Test hundred for Australia; fourth among Australia’s Test opening partnerships (2053 runs in tandem with Chris Rogers); a double-century in his 100th Test; and he once held four catches in a session, an Ashes record for Australia. Like a lot of bullies, while Dave Warner liked to dish it out verbally, he was vulnerable when he encountered reciprocation.

Complete champions experience universal support. Warner must know that his big mouth and uncontrollable antics meet with the approval only of the totally insensitive.

When he smashed 335 not out against Pakistan, an Adelaide Test ground record, many of the spectators applauded but, tellingly, some did not. His story, constructed by the prolific Ken Piesse, makes for absorbing reading nonetheless.

Warner played T20 for Australia before his first-class debut: such is the face of the modern game. Among the colour photographs of this “lovable pest”, two are particularly charming: young Warner with Usman Khawaja going into bat in a juniors match, and a portrait of Warner with his pretty wife Candice. He is not the only cricketer who owes more to a loving partner than can be readily understood.

The most sizzling story-line is, of course, Warner’s involvement in the sordid ball-tampering episode at Cape Town in 2018, which is dealt with in detail, with no sympathy sought. Further, Warner’s teasing/abusing of Quinton de Kock sparked a response which found Warner himself wanting.

All too frequently he resembles a baddie in some outrageous cartoon strip, firing from the hip but sometimes being caught in the crossfire. His story is therefore something quite out of the ordinary, a contradiction: maddening and yet transfixing. He will leave so many thousands of runs in the record books.

Shall we see Warner’s like ever again? Do we want to? That really is the teasing question.


(With thanks from The Cricketer, UK)

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