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Dave Warner: right place, right time

Jonathan Howcroft

Jonathan Howcroft

Written on Wednesday, 07 September 2011 08:31

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As all cricketers know, timing is everything.

The best batsmen make the ball appear stationary as they move into line and pierce the field. For bowlers it's achieving that moment at delivery where all forces combine to release the ball with maximum efficiency. Google "Michael Holding's bowling action" for more information. Cricket is also significantly influenced by many other temporal forces, including the pace of a session, the duration of a day's play and the span of a series. Of particular interest at the moment, thanks to David Warner, is the timing of a career.

This week the 24-year-old New South Welshman was called up to the Australian Test squad in Sri Lanka to cover the loss of Ricky Ponting while the former skipper returns to Australia for the birth of his second child.

In the afterglow of Australia's rejuvenating first Test victory, little has been made of Warner's inclusion as reserve batsman. His call-up, however, comes at a time when Australian cricket is in the midst of a clumsy transition, prompted by the Argus review, leading to questions about the selection process.

Greg Chappell is the nominated selector on tour for the series. However, with the former captain already away with the squad in Sri Lanka, the Argus review was published - a report advocating his removal from his duties as a selector. This led to Cricket Australia CEO, James Sutherland, flying to Sri Lanka to establish what Chappell's responsibilities would be for the duration of the tour.

This situation was complicated by Chairman of Selectors, Andrew Hilditch, effectively resigning in the wake of the review, fellow selector, Jamie Cox, resigning more recently and the lack of a replacement for David Boon, who left in May to become an ICC Match Referee. The vacuum has been filled to some extent by captain, Michael Clarke, and coach, Tim Nielsen, whose roles have both been enlarged to include selection duties. However, with now customary farce, Nielsen is in the process of reapplying for a position he is unlikely to fill once the recruitment process has run its course and Clarke is captaining his first series.

Into which disorder and confusion arrives David Warner.

Warner has played a total of just nine first-class matches. Seven of these have come across three moderate Sheffield Shield seasons and two, more recently, against Zimbabwe XI's in Harare as part of an Australia A tour. In his three Shield matches last year Warner averaged a respectable 45.8, including one century and one fifty. This was deemed sufficient to book him a place in the A squad, where he smashed 341 runs in his three first-class innings.

Warner, hitherto regarded as a limited-overs specialist, has an ODI average of 15, from seven matches. His T20 average is 28.7 from 27 matches.

All of which made me think of a forgotten generation of Australian cricketers who got their timing badly wrong. I'm thinking of Jamie Cox (10821 Shield runs at 39, Test caps 0) Jamie Siddons (10643 at 45, Tests 0) Michael Di Venuto (9974 at 42, Tests 0) Jimmy Maher (9086 at 39, Tests 0) and Stuart Law (9034 at 44, Tests 1). Between them, Brad Hodge, Martin Love and Tom Moody can only muster 21 caps, one short of England seamer Ryan Sidebottom.

These legends of the domestic game had the misfortune of plying their trade during the golden age of Australian cricket. Not only did the likes of the Waugh brothers, David Boon, Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer and Ricky Ponting score prodigiously, they were also rarely injured. Opportunities presented themselves as often as a Test defeat during the '90s and '00s, and competition for places was fierce. Away from the glare of the international scene the likes of Maher and Law racked up honours domestically and in the county championship, displaying the embarrassing depth of talent at Australia's disposal.

No such problems for Warner. Just three Shield matches and 275 runs proved enough to get noticed. Just two matches in Zimbabwe were all he required to force his way into serious reckoning. A purge of selectors and the birth of a Tasmanian baby then conspired to provide Warner with the ultimate cricketing opportunity.

Timing definitely is everything in cricket.

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