CHENNAI: To say David Warner is a changed man post-Sandpapergate is stating the obvious. Up until then, his image was of a man always up for a confrontation or two, not afraid of even crossing the line at times. Then came Cape Town. An incident that rocked their set-up so much that Cricket Australia brought in an “Elite Honesty” policy that soon became a subject of ridicule.
Suspended from international cricket for a year, missing out on IPL, kept away from the leadership group and back in the fold again, to say Warner has mellowed down is an understatement. In Sunrisers Hyderabad, 'Davey' is an outstanding leader, who thrives on responsibilities and never says no to a youngster approaching him for advice. VVS Laxman compares him to a soldier, who will blindly follow a command given to him.
Warner has been a centre of theatrics whenever India and Australia have clashed in this decade. “Speak English” jibe to Rohit Sharma, the famous 'come on, come on' imitation of Varun Aaron and countless run-ins with Virat Kohli. Even though Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft opened up about the Cape Town scandal, Warner chose to be silent.
But since then, Indian fans have seen a different version of Warner, who made them laugh over TikTok dance shows and hit Telugu numbers. As India and Australia prepare for another showdown, Warner was asked whether verbal volleys will be back, particularly after how the Australian stayed away from sledging opponents last summer.
“I find it funny,” Warner began by saying in a media interaction. “For me, it's about getting in the contest, so that's basically when you're out there, you're trying to feel for something. Last summer, I was coming off the back of the England tour, so I really had to knuckle down and try and concentrate as much as I could, and try and get into a battle out there and contest with the opposition. I managed to find that in a different way and it worked. It's about trying to find that balance again when I'm out in the middle,” said Warner.
That discipline on the field reflects on his batting too, where he has cut down risks, despite continuing to be aggressive. Attributing fatherhood as one of the factors that have made him calmer, Warner believes he has begun to mellow down with age.
“I really took pride in the last 12-24 months, to apply that discipline and you keep learning as you get older. You've got to be on top of your game to be able to adapt to that. And not get too aggressive or angry when the kids aren't listening. For me, I am getting tested on and off the field. So, it's about being calm and relaxed and trying to sum up the situation you're playing in.”
While the absence of Kohli towards the end of the tour could deprive the Test series of spice, Warner feels if India wanted to engage verbally, then Australia might change their approach. In 2018/19 with Warner and Smith missing, the usual heat was missed, but still there was plenty of chatter with stump mics providing good entertainment thanks to Tim Paine, Rishabh Pant and the likes.
“I'll always draw from that, mate. To try and get engaged, that's the way they like to play as well. We saw that last time when we toured India. They really engaged us like that. We're learning over time and trying not to engage in that. Probably try and reverse the effect by trying and ignoring it, trying to take it on board and using it against them by using your bat. It's probably something I've learnt over time,” Warner said.
India-Australia series live on Sony networks from Nov 27