David Warner May Irritate Some but His Batting Talent Isn't Going Away

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David Warner May Irritate Some but His Batting Talent Isn't Going Away
Schalk van Zuydam/Associated Press

Even when David Warner scores a hundred, opinions will always be divided.

As the type of cricketer who comes from the T20 school of batting, nothing about Warner has ever been conventional, and, for many people, very little in his approach has even been conventional.

His century in the third Test against South Africa was another one of those efforts. On Saturday with 135 off 152 balls—with his hundred coming off just 104 deliveries—Warner showed that he is very much in the discussion when it comes to the world's best opening batsmen.

He might not be one of the purists, but he's his own kind of special, and players like Warner are important for the game. They are enigmas who challenge the status quo and all the beliefs associated with it, and they help garner interests of those who think the longest format is past its sell-by date. 

Warner has challenged the perception of what makes a good Test cricketer since he was handed his debut in 2011.

Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

Within four innings, he had scored his maiden hundred. It was a patient effort for a man thought not to have the temperament for the longest format of the game.

Australia lost that Test against New Zealand by seven runs, but there was little wrong with Warner's contribution, he was the only player who managed to pass 23. Since then, his second-innings efforts have, in particular, blossomed, and he has grown both as a cricketer and as a person.

It was just over six months ago where Warner was the pantomime villain of the Ashes in England. He made the headlines for punching Joe Root in a bar during the Champions Trophy, and the cricket fraternity lapped up the misguided boy reputation and trumped that reputation.

But that all has changed now, and when I asked Warner how much he thinks he has matured as person and a player earlier in the series, he quipped: "Well, I'm not going out and punching blokes in a club anymore, that's a start."

Those who heard him hinting at South Africa ball-tampering in the second Test, as the Sydney Morning Herald among others reported, might disagree, Since his misdemeanour, Warner has got a girlfriend who has whipped him into shape, and he has scored four Test hundreds.

All those runs came in different circumstances, but they all came in the same kind of Warner fashion—without subtlety and with the kind of careless recklessness that generally only accompany immature players. While that kind of approach might be stifled and discouraged in most circles, it's allowed Warner to become one of the most progressive players of the modern age. 

When Warner is on the charge, and it looks like he might get out any minute, it makes Australian coach Darren Lehmann smile. When I asked him whether he gives his players instruction to play like that he could only grin and say: "That's just the way he plays."

Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

And thank heaven he does play like that because his knocks often inject some much-needed spice into the day. It's not something for the coaching textbooks, but then perhaps he's the kind of player who will rewrite those textbooks. 

With the series square at one all, Warner's knock on Saturday could very well prove to be one of the most important ones of his career. With Australia's struggling batsmen and a fast approach needed, it was exactly what was needed to set the tone for the deciding Test, even if he didn't mean it. 

He might not be likeable, he might be somewhat irksome and he certainly isn't everybody's cup of tea, but Warner will always be remembered as a special cricketer, and that should be celebrated.

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